We have answered some of the most common questions about offshore wind farms in the section below, but we will be adding new questions as they arrive through our community consultation process and they will be published here regularly, so please check back in.
An offshore wind farm consists of a number of large wind turbines that are fixed to the seabed. A turbine generates renewable electricity when the wind turns its blades. A floating offshore wind farm utilized floating platforms to support the wind turbines. This means that the siting is more flexible and that ultimately the structures can be removed more easily in the future.
The electricity generated by each turbine may be collected by an offshore electricity substation located within the wind farm or cabled directly to shore. Seabed cables connect the substation to the coast. These cables transport the electricity to land from where it will be used to power homes, farms and businesses around Ireland.
Wind energy is Northern Ireland’s main tool in the fight against climate change. It cuts our carbon emissions by millions of tonnes every year and currently provides almost half of the country’s electricity.
However, almost all of Northern Ireland’s existing wind farms are onshore. Wind conditions off the coast are far better and much taller turbines can be used. This means a single offshore wind turbine can generate as much as three or even four onshore turbines.
The Northern Ireland Executive has committed to a target of 70% of electricity generation from renewables by 2030 and a trajectory to a net zero economy. The Energy Strategy and association action plan which was published in January 2022 announced an aspiration for Northern Ireland to develop 1GW of offshore wind as part of the wider net zero aspiration. Developing offshore wind energy is essential if we are to reduce Northern Ireland’s carbon emissions and to play our part in the fight against climate change.
Generally, there is no reason why fishing activity and offshore wind farms cannot co-exist although
sometimes fishing practices may need to be amended slightly to ensure that the two industries can work together to ensure the space is shared safely and to mutual benefit. Fishing continues today near offshore wind farms in many parts of the world.
It is important for the developer to engage as early as possible with the local fishing community to ensure ways are found to minimise the impact of a wind farm on fishing.
Every project is unique and there are many different types of fishing activity. The best way to ensure fishing can continue around an offshore wind farm is for the developer and local fishers to share information and work together to try to overcome obstacles.
Geophysical surveys allow for the accurate prediction of the type of material present on and in the seabed (e.g. rocks, pebbles, sand/mud). These surveys involve using acoustic devices to emit sound energy towards the seabed. These sound waves are reflected and the returning echoes are then detected on board the vessel. Different echo strengths and return speeds indicate different seabed features and different physical characteristics.
Geophysical surveyors use a range of different techniques to study what lies on and beneath the surface of the seabed. High frequency multibeam and side scan sonar surveys gather data on water depth and the topography of the seafloor. The high frequencies associated with these types of surveys cannot be heard by even the most sensitive fish species.
As a general rule offshore wind farms do not look to have exclusion zones put in place but we would abide by any decision made by the [Marine Management Organisation] as the relevant authority.
We have raised this issue with the relevant Government Department for clarification and would be happy to work with fishing organisations to try and clarify the approach the Marine Management Organisation would take.
Are there opportunities for Northern Ireland companies to participate in the project?
Absolutely, SBM Offshore is committed to maxmising the benefit to Northern Ireland and to work with local companies to ensure high levels of local content in the projects going forward. If you are interested in being included, please contact us using the contact us form and we will be in touch.