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An artist's impression of the proposed development at Moneypoint. There will also be banks of turbines at offshore locations.

Chimneys to go among other changes at Moneypoint as project advances

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THE iconic 731 foot high chimneys that dominate the landscape near Moneypoint Power Station will be knocked when coal burning ceases after 2025, the ESB has confirmed. These two chimneys have become synonymous with the coal-burning power station since they were first built in 1985 as part of the initial investment worth an estimated €900 million. However, the ESB has stated the entire Moneypoint site will be reconfigured on a phased basis as part of the transition to becoming a new renewable energy hub under the Green Atlantic initiative.

Speaking during a question and answer session for the media and stakeholders, ESB executive director for generation and trading, Jim Dollard acknowledged the chimneys will come down once the whole site is repurposed.

Padraig O’hIceadha head of strategy, generation and trading, explained as the company built up the new infrastructure, the core infrastructure will not be required. While the ESB doesn’t envisage it will become a primary turbine manufacturer, Mr O’hIceadha said the company is planning to create a service hub for the construction of floating foundations and assembly of offshore floating wind turbines that would be available to other wind developers along the west coast.

Mr Dollard said the company is looking at developing a significant number of windfarms off the Atlantic Ocean. He said they are looking at the possibility of using the ash from coal as part of the concrete structures for the offshore windfarms. If not, the ESB will look at another use. While he was reluctant to provide an exact figure, he predicted Green Atlantic will create significant job opportunities over the next decade.

Once planning permission is being sought for the new offshore windfarm, Mr Dollard said their environmental and engineering assessments will look at the adequacy of the existing roads network in West Clare.

“The site was purpose-built for large scale electricity generation. It has seen heavy transport coming in and out over the years. We will look again at what is required for local infrastructure and will engage will local communities on that,” he said.

Commenting on the spin-off from storing hydrogen, Mr O’hIceadha confirmed there will be a substantial hydrogen construction and storage infrastructure at Moneypoint and there will be jobs associated with that. The company confirmed it had to enter into a 50/50 partnership with Equinor to develop the offshore windfarm because of the scale of this project. Blade manufacture comes from elsewhere, but over time this may change.

The company envisages the Shannon Estuary will become a focal point for offshore wind along the Atlantic Coast. It is in constant contact with the university sector in terms of technology development in renewables innovation and is happy to work with universities for technology learnings and economic impact. It is envisaged electricity generated by the offshore windfarm will be brought via cables back to Moneypoint Power Station.

The briefing was told the development of a windfarm takes eight to ten years in terms of planning consent, community engagement, environmental licence and planning permission. Phase one could be in operation in 2028, the second bigger phase will be available early in the next decade.

A feasibility study will examine how the ESB repurpose the Moneypoint site in terms of adapting it for the construction of floating foundations and assembly of turbines.

The assembly of the turbine is a big undertaking before they are floated out. This will be developed in parallel with the windfarm. It is expected there will be a community fund once the offshore windfarm is in operation.

Clare County Council chief executive, Pat Dowling said the emergence of Green Atlantic ensured a vision and plan is now in place for a very exciting future for the Shannon Estuary.

Mr Dowling recalled the Council led the Strategic Framework Plan for the Shannon Estuary with many local stakeholders and confirmed the authority has been engaging with Moneypoint station manager, Sean Hegarty and his team on future developments.

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