Significant German interest is emerging in long-term investment in Ireland’s wind energy infrastructure, with the goal of exporting power back to supply the German industrial sector.
Green hydrogen, produced from wind energy, is seen by Germany as a key route to decarbonising. Germany’s green hydrogen commissioner, Stefan Kaufmann, has said this could open up a new era of energy cooperation between Ireland and Germany.
A new body, the German-Irish Hydrogen Council, has been established by the German-Irish Chamber of Commerce to examine the opportunities in the sector. Wind farms off the Irish west coast, already the subject of international and Irish investment interest, are likely targets for investment as well as the significant associated infrastructure.
Late last year Dr Kaufmann visited Shannon Foynes port, a likely hub for Irish green hydrogen exports.
Following the first meeting of the council last Friday, the German-Irish chamber said it would support the export of Irish green hydrogen to Germany and the development of a hydrogen strategy for Ireland.
Among its members are the ESB, which says it plans to become a major player in large scale hydrogen production.
The council has been invited to appear before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action on Tuesday to discuss the development of Ireland’s offshore wind resources. Massive investment will be needed in developing the wind energy sector, but the Government will want to retain control of the process and ensure sufficient supply to meet Ireland’s need, as well as developing export capacity.
Wind energy is central to Ireland’s plan to move to up to 80 per cent renewable electricity by 2030, with 5GW of installed offshore wind capacity due to be in place at that stage. Ireland has one operating offshore wind farm, on the Arklow Bank off Wicklow, and has published draft terms for its first offshore wind auction due late this year or early in 2023.
A significant upgrade of Eirgrid’s network capacity is also planned as part of the programme, including protocols to access offshore power.
The Government has said that Ireland’s long-term plan is to develop at least 30GW of floating wind, with at least two further auctions planned after the one now under way. However, the lead time in these major projects means that the target is that by 2030 there will be 5GW of wind energy production available.