With somewhat fortuitous timing, the Offshore RESS auction in Ireland results announcements occurred when I was in a kick-off call for some Irish work we had just won. The first 10 mins of that call was taken up with people reading the news and much excited discussion.
The awarded capacity amounts to 3.1 GW – the size of a single project in more established markets – but it’s 3.1 GW that have been almost 20 years in the making. The 25 MW Arklow I project went live in 2004, showing Ireland leading the way in offshore wind. That wind fell from the sails of an industry that for all manner of reasons couldn’t capitalise on that early mover advantage. So, 20 years later, offshore wind is finally, and firmly, back on the agenda off the Irish coast.
Ireland has an enormous potential for offshore wind, enabled by its significant seabed area and generally excellent wind resource, especially off the west coast. The challenge for Ireland is that this potential – up to 50 GW or more – has a relatively small domestic market. The Irish national demand is too small to accommodate much more than this 3.1 GW in terms of new capacity, at least in terms of direct electricity to grid off-take. Ireland needs extensive grid interconnection with the UK and the rest of Europe and enhanced storage. Happily for Ireland, the rest of Europe needs that Irish wind too. And a well integrated supergrid, for that matter. Given time, we can be confident that Ireland will have an increasing ability to export its (hopefully) cheap offshore wind generated energy – a genuinely symbiotic solution where all in northern Europe win.
As for the auction result itself, it is sure to be a disappointment to the two projects that missed out – Arklow II (SSE) and Oriel (ESB/Parkwind). There is always the chance of resubmitting into ORESS-2. SSE have recently iterated their continued commitment to the Arklow II project. We expect that the next auction will be more competitive than the first, with more projects participating and a focus away from the east coast and/or a preference for floating projects. There are other routes to market, of course, and we should not rule out these projects going ahead on the basis of “merchant” or corporate PPAs.
Corio’s Scierde Rocks will be an interesting project to keep an eye on. It is close to shore on the more exposed west coast, with more challenging metocean and seabed conditions compared to typical east coast projects. It is spearheading development in the west and will pave the way for further projects in this region. Those seeking to develop other projects off the west coast will be monitoring its progress carefully.
It’s great to see Ireland firmly back on the offshore wind stage with the awarded projects. The average strike price in the offshore RESS auction in Ireland of €86/MWh is consistent with expectations form modelling we performed in the run up to the auction. The average strike price from RESS-1 in 2020 for almost 1.3 GW of onshore wind and solar was €74/MWh. Given the increased costs in global supply chains over the intervening period, and the challenges of building efficient offshore wind supply chains in a new Irish market, the difference between these two auction results bodes well for the future of offshore wind in Ireland.