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An aerial view of Moneypoint ESB generating Station. Photograph by John Kelly.

New Moneypoint offshore wind energy plan will power 1.5 million homes

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THE FUTURE viability of Moneypoint Power Station has been thrown a much needed lifeline under a new proposed offshore wind development project, which has the potential to generate enough energy to power up 1.5 million homes reports Dan Danaher.
Under a new public private partnership between the ESB and Equinor, a new multi-million Euro project concerning a 270 km2 flaghship floating offshore wind development is being planned off the coast of Clare and Kerry.
Details of the new plan are due to be announced by the ESB under Ireland’s long-term decarbonisation strategy this Friday.
The Clare Champion has learned the ESB and Equinor submitted a Foreshore License application to the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage in January, and a lot of preliminary work has already been undertaken preparing the groundwork for a new planning application.
In addition to revitalising Moneypoint Power Station, this project would provide a commercial rates windfall for Clare County Council, pending planning approval.
This expected announcement will be regarded as a considerable boost for West Clare in view of the fact about 100 workers lost their jobs as part of the most recent restructuring plan.
Welcoming this proposed development, Deputy Michael McNamara said it could place Moneypoint at the centre of Government plans to develop offshore energy in Ireland.
Deputy McNamara said the proposed Moneypoint Offshore Wind Farm will be the result of a partnership between ESB and Equinor – a Norwegian company formerly called Statoil and will be delivered in two phases.
He outlined the first phase, Moneypoint Offshore One is located 16km off the Clare / Kerry Coast. The expected capacity from the first phase is estimated to be 400MW with the final windfarm area likely to be in the order of 70km2.
The second phase, Moneypoint Offshore Two would be located a further 20km west of Moneypoint Offshore One, taking the total project capacity to between 1GW – 1.5GW. The latter phase would have a likely area of 200km2.
“As the project develops, it is hoped to be able to take advantage of the excellent wind conditions and excess energy generated to produce climate-neutral, hydrogen fuel which could eventually replace oil-based fuels in vehicles and transportation.”
Deputy McNamara said the evolution and transition of ESB Moneypoint from coal to renewables will see the continued supply of electricity generation from the West Clare plant but from a cleaner energy source.
“The expected capacity output of the flagship floating offshore wind development project as a whole, could provide enough energy to power up to 1.5 million homes,” he added.
“With the coal plant due to cease operation in 2025, the flagship floating offshore wind development wind farm is expected to connect into Moneypoint substation and utilise the spare capacity available following the coal plant closure.”
Deputy McNamara said the proposal to develop the offshore wind energy project originates from ESB and Equinor’s extensive site selection process for the entire coast of Ireland in 2019 and 2020 to identify potentially suitable sites for developing offshore wind farms.
Granting a Foreshore license will convey the right to undertake preliminary survey work and site investigation studies for what could be the location of the Moneypoint Offshore One Wind farm and its grid connection route.
“Should the site be deemed suitable for an offshore windfarm, ESB and Equinor aim to seek planning permission for the project at the appropriate time under the terms of the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill which is due to be enacted this year,” he added.
Deputy McNamara recalled he has been critical of the Government in the Dáil for seeking to source power from offshore energy projects in Europe at a time when no similar projects were being advanced by our government.
“I am delighted that moves are now expected to be made to develop our own offshore energy sector utilising the existing transmission network from Moneypoint.”
The development will also reflect key strategic elements of the Clare County Development Plan and the Strategic Infrastructure Framework Plan (SIFP) for the Shannon Estuary which has been developed by Clare County Council, Kerry County Council, Limerick City and County Councils, Shannon Group and Shannon Foynes Port Company.
Deputy McNamara said Moneypoint is set up to play a central role in Ireland’s future low-carbon energy system due to its important location on the electricity system.
“Moneypoint is situated on the coast, on the Shannon Estuary. It has two large networks that leave it and cross the country in arcs, one going to the north of Dublin and the other to the south of Dublin. It is, essentially, irreplaceable in terms of the national network. It is perfectly placed for the development of an offshore wind energy project, and for helping Ireland fulfil its renewable energy commitments.”
Deputy McNamara said the investment plans will be welcomed locally in West Clare, particularly in light of last year’s announcement that units at ESB Moneypoint did not prequalify for the T-4 auction for the period October 2024 to September 2025, representing the loss of a crucial contract for the power generating station.
“I expressed my disappointment at the time that Government announced that the lifespan of the power station would be further curtailed and no plan to replace had been presented. The expected new development for Moneypoint will be an important step forward for the country’s renewable energy commitments and will represent a significant boost for the economies of Clare and Ireland.”
Public representatives have previously urged the government to ensure workers wouldn’t be forced to carry an undue burden following the loss of the contract at the T-4 auction.
Last December, the ESB expressed its disappointment that the Moneypoint units did not prequalify for the T-4 auction for the period October 2024 to September 2025. This means that Moneypoint will have no capacity income, which is its primary source of income, from October 2024.
“This presents further viability challenges to the Moneypoint station which has been dealing with a number of economic challenges for the last number of years.
“In 2019, Moneypoint station was restructured, under a survival plan agreed with staff, to align its resources and cost structure with its expected future running pattern and revenue.”
In the context of fuel diversity, the ESB believes that Moneypoint can have a back-up role to play for Ireland in terms of system security.

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