The Shannon Estuary in Ireland presents a unique opportunity and is best placed in Ireland and Europe to develop the Atlantic floating offshore wind industry and help the country reach its climate goals, according to a new report.
The review of the Shannon Foynes Port Company’s Vision 2041 masterplan by global experts Bechtel supports the development of offshore wind and explains how the deep waters of the Shannon Estuary, almost unrivalled in European context, would not only facilitate the deployment of floating offshore wind at scale from Europe’s best wind regime on Ireland’s west coast but help decongest the Irish supply chain through the provision of road and rail linked container services.
The report, which was launched by Ireland’s Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan, TD, found that development of the Shannon Foynes Port would play a vital role in helping Ireland meet its net zero obligations by 2050. It would also contribute significantly to Europe’s efforts, through its REPowerEU plan, to unwind its dependence on Russian fossil fuel imports and accelerate the expansion of renewables.
The full report can be downloaded here.
Photo: Ireland's Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan, TD, with Bechtel’s Paul Deane (far left) and Pat Keating, CEO of Shannon Foynes Port (far right)
The report estimates that potential electricity generation from the enormous renewable energy resource of Ireland’s west coast winds can deliver 30 gigawatts of floating offshore wind by 2050 - six times more than the existing domestic demand. Significantly, this energy would also kick-start a new industrial ecosystem based on the production of carbon-free green electricity, hydrogen and derivatives, which will be transformational for Ireland by way of use for domestic electricity and e-fuels, electricity exports, and e-fuels exports.
At peak, up to 120 floating turbines would be installed offshore per year. The economic impacts would also be far reaching with thousands of jobs created and billions of euros invested in supply chain and route-to-market infrastructure and facilities around the region.
The report is structured around three main drivers for future growth and expansion:
- Delivering floating offshore wind at scale
- Green industrial development and transition – facilitating alternative fuels (“e-fuels”) production
- Expanded, diversified and more sustainable logistics services
The report identifies numerous advantages of the Shannon Estuary, including its 500km2 of deep water, its 1,400 ha of zoned Strategic Development Locations and, particularly, its proximity to the Atlantic’s abundant offshore wind resources.
The report recommends the establishment of four core facilities on the Shannon Estuary to support the delivery of floating offshore wind at scale:
- Turbine integration and pre-commissioning at Foynes Deepwater Port;
- Substructure assembly at Moneypoint;
- Wet storage at various locations within the Estuary;
- Operations & Maintenance base at the Port of Foynes.
It found that expansions at Foynes Port would add substantial freight capacity to the national supply chain in Ireland, and that this capacity would be situated at an uncongested point in the national transport network that is connected by both road and rail, significantly relieving pressure on the congested Greater Dublin Area network.
Speaking at the launch, Minister Ryan said: “Developing offshore renewable energy is integral to Ireland’s energy independence and achieving Ireland’s Climate Change ambitions with a target of 5GW of offshore wind by 2030, a further 2 GW for hydrogen production by 2030, and the potential of at least 30GW of floating offshore wind power as set out in the Programme for Government and the Climate Action Plan 2021.”
“I congratulate Shannon Foynes Port Company and Bechtel on the report,” said Minister Ryan. “The report sets out the opportunity in the Shannon Estuary as a hub for facilitating the development of offshore wind, along with the production of clean fuels– including green hydrogen, ammonia and methanol. The Strategic Review demonstrates the company’s commitment to sustainability, climate action and renewable energy. The Vision 2041 Review also clearly demonstrates the continued commitment of Shannon Foynes Port Company as a driver of economic growth in the Estuary, the Region and nationally.”
“This report comes at a critical moment, and we are delighted to have Bechtel supporting us. This is a roadmap for what is required to deliver the unique floating offshore wind opportunity that exists for this region, Ireland and, indeed, Europe because of the unique confluence of assets here on the Estuary and west coast,” said Pat Keating, CEO of Shannon Foynes Port. “The mix of our world-class wind resources and the natural infrastructure, not least our deep sheltered waters, for a global manufacturing and industry base adds up to what is an unprecedented opportunity that we must capitalise on urgently to address climate change. To fully unlock these significant opportunities there are national policies in several sectors that require updating. Examples include more clarity and urgency around energy policy, enduring regime, alternative fuels and wider economic and social policies.”
Mr Keating added: “Through its REPowerEU Plan, which is about reducing dependence on Russian fossil fuels and fast-tracking the green transition, the EU is looking to its member states for solutions. Thankfully, Ireland has such a solution here on the Shannon Estuary and West coast, potentially one of the most significant responses from any member state.”
“There is already very strong interest in our wind energy generation capacity from global players and we would anticipate already making significant inroads by the turn of the decade,” said David McGarry, Chairman of Shannon Foynes Port. “This would very much be a phased programme rivalling anything on an international scale but will transition Ireland to a global renewable energy leader. It will deliver our own energy requirements through renewable resources, assisting in the transition to net-zero in the long term, but will also see Ireland become a significant exporter of energy into the bargain.”
“This future proofing plan comes at a time when energy security is more important than ever. There is an increasingly strong case for investing in port infrastructure to support the growth in offshore wind, and the importance of creating local supply chains cannot be underestimated,” said Michelle De Franca, Bechtel’s managing director for the UK and Ireland. “Ports act as focal points during the manufacturing, installation, and operation of offshore wind farms, and Shannon Foynes is strategically ideal to support Ireland’s offshore wind industry, as well as expand to play an even greater role in European shipping. Our work also illustrates that the development of a green hydrogen-based ecosystem in the Shannon Estuary is possible. The production of green hydrogen here will be a much-needed boost to European energy security and will be transformational for Ireland.”
Bechtel are global experts in ports, having delivered facilities around the globe, including Khalifa Port, the most advanced trading hub in the Middle East. Bechtel helps customers deliver projects of purpose that create a lasting positive legacy. These are projects that create jobs and grow economies; improve the resiliency of the world's infrastructure; connect communities to resources and opportunity; get us closer to net zero; tackle critical environmental challenges to protect people and the planet; and accelerate progress to make the world a cleaner, greener, safer place. Since 1898, we have helped customers complete more than 25,000 projects in 160 countries on all seven continents.
Over 40 years ago, Bechtel was involved in the construction of Aughinish Alumina, the largest industrial complex on the Shannon estuary and adjacent to the Foynes port. Bechtel is taking a growing position in Ireland supporting the renewal of infrastructure, the development of renewables and the transition to net zero. The company was recently appointed by daa as its integrated delivery partner for Dublin Airport’s capital investment program, and recently completed Ervia’s Cork Carbon Capture Utilisation & Storage pre-FEED study, a Connecting Europe Facility funded project, for the development of CO2 transport pipeline networks, liquefaction, storage, and shipping facilities for the decarbonisation of CO2 clusters in Ireland.
About Shannon Foynes Port
Shannon Foynes Port Company, Ireland’s deepest sheltered commercial harbour and largest bulk port company, has statutory jurisdiction over all marine activities on a 500km2 area on the Shannon Estuary, stretching from Kerry to Loop Head to Limerick City.
Adjacent to the world’s busiest shipping routes, with current capacity to handle over 10 million tonnes annually and with water depths of up to 32m, we are uniquely positioned to expand as an international cargo hub serving the domestic, European, and worldwide markets. This expansion will be accommodated by up to 1200 hectares of land zoned for Port development.
Shannon Foynes Port Company is extremely well positioned to assist in the need to transition to a low carbon economy. Due to the Port’s location proximate to the Atlantic wind resource, considered the best in the world, and its plans to introduce new services that could assist in decarbonising the supply chain, the Port has a significant role to play in the Government’s Climate Action Plan about energy generation and transport.
The turnover value of current trade handled by the Port is €8.5 billion per annum, with associated economic impacts of €1.9 billion pa supporting over 3,900 jobs. In order to fully realise the potential of its deep-water advantage, future expansion and development of the Port is led by its Masterplan Vision 2041.
The Shannon Estuary – with depths of up to 32m and a handling capacity for large vessels up to 200,000 deadweight tonnes, is among the deepest ports in Europe – providing Shannon Foynes Port Company, its customers and investors with a natural advantage and opportunity. Through our Masterplan, Vision 2041, we are realising that opportunity by transforming the Shannon Estuary into a major international shipping and economic hub.
Shannon Foynes Port Company is an EU Core Network Port (TEN-T) and a Tier 1 Port in the National Ports Policy, effectively designating the Shannon Estuary as a commercial water course of international significance.