POTENTIAL FOR DEVELOPMENT of offshore energy in West Clare is the biggest economic prospect for the county.
In a proposal before the West Clare Municipal District, Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF) asked the local authority to engage with offshore wind energy companies in the preparation of a study examining the capacity of smaller piers along the Shannon Estuary to capitalise on future development in the industry.
This study would determine suitable piers, assess works required, detail planning and environmental assessments while also identifying funding streams.
A commitment was issued by acting senior executive officer, John O’Malley to work with offshore wind companies who have already expressed an interest in the area and to look at potential sites for both infrastructural developments and future funding opportunities.
Since the discovery of North Sea oil in 1969, Aberdeen has been known as the offshore oil capital of Europe, supporting an approximate 47,000 jobs locally. Offshore wind energy could be West Clare’s version of this success, Cllr Murphy maintained, “This is an opportunity for West Clare to become the ‘Aberdeen’ for the offshore energy industry here on the west of Ireland. This is the greatest opportunity for regeneration of the communities of West Clare since Moneypoint was developed”.
Cllr Murphy admitted to being seriously concerned “about how little progress is happening to capitalise on this opportunity”.
He stated, “This is an opportunity on a countywide scale and requires significant input from the economic development directorate, we are looking at the huge effort put into the Ennis 2040 strategy which of course, needs to be done, but the scale of opportunity the offshore wind sector will deliver puts anything Ennis 2040 delivers into the ha’penny place so its time similar effort is put into this opportunity. The community benefit fund alone from the Western Star project is estimated at €20m per annum and that’s only for one project and while Clare will only share in that, nothing else comes close to delivering that sort of money into the county”. Murphy calculated that a potential €9bn worth of revenue could be amassed from the sector.
Foynes and Moneypoint are the two ports in the Shannon Estuary suitable for the construction and operation of the projects, the Kilkee man said. “Ports in Kerry and Galway are eyeing this up too. I note the docks at Rossaveal has recently received 25 million of an upgrade, undoubtedly aimed at servicing the offshore wind energy industry off the west coast of Clare. There has been huge movement and planned investment by the Shannon Foynes Port Co with the recent announcement of a €28million investment in jetty infrastructure and a port logistics park to become a major international renewable energy supply-chain hub”.
Moneypoint will too have investment, he acknowledged. “Massive economic gaps” left by the fishing industry’s decline for small communities of the county could also be plugged, the tourism consultant flagged. Piers such as Carrigaholt and Cappa “are perfectly situated to provide for smaller boat services such as crew change, provisioning and parts replacement shuttles. If we do not have these smaller piers assessed for their capacity to deliver on these opportunities, and create a planned program of works to undertake any such improvements necessary we will be missing out on a significant chunk of the economic opportunity provided by this energy revolution”.
“This is a golden opportunity to breathe life back into them for the foreseeable future. It’s not appropriate that we miss out on it. Undertaking this capacity audit, identifying at least one pier that can be utilised, for instance Carrigaholt given its proximity to the project areas, and identifying and undertaking the works needed to make them fit for purpose so they can bid for the work from the offshore wind projects when it is available is critical to ensuring the opportunity is grabbed with both hands, and doesn’t slip away due to lack of action,” he concluded.
Failure to jump at the chance is giving other counties “the chance to gain inertia and support from Central Government at the expense of Co Clare,” Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) commented. “We’re trying to create an interest from our local authority in doing the groundwork that would make our project shovel ready and make other companies interested in the generation of offshore energy and an interest in coming to Clare”.
Estimations of 3.5KW of energy creating 21,000 jobs were referenced by Cllr Killeen, “we need to organise ourselves, a little bit of positive discrimination for West Clare wouldn’t be any harm”. Support was also voiced by Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG).