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Plans ready for largest infrastructural development in Galway Gaeltacht

A planning application for an offshore windfarm in Conamara – believed to be the largest ever infrastructural development in the Galway Gaeltacht – will be lodged this summer.

International investors are poised to pump up to €2 billion into the Sceirde Rock Offshore Windfarm project off the west coast of County Galway, which they claim will produce enough ‘clean’ energy to power 350,000 homes.

The backers of the project, which has already attracted opposition through an online petition, said they will submit a planning application before the end of August.

Plans for the offshore windfarm were unveiled to the public at a series of consultation days in Carna earlier this June.

Corio Generation, which specialises in green energy investment, estimated the project would cost between €1.5 billion and €2 billion to complete.

The company said it had already spent €2 million with Conamara and Galway businesses it had engaged to assist in its work so far.

It is planned to build a farm of up to 30 fixed-bottom turbines with gravity-based foundations off the coast of Carna and Leitir Mealláin.

The company said each turbine has a 325-metre tip height based on a rotor diameter of 292 metres.

Construction will start in 2026, if all planning hurdles are jumped.

A spokesperson for the company, Michael Cloherty, stakeholder and consent lead based in Carna, said it was estimated the Sceirde Rocks project will create up to 150 construction jobs over three years.

It will result in a further 60 direct, full-time jobs during the 35-year operational phase of the project, he said.

He said the project was considering locating its Operation and Maintenance facility at Ros ‘a Mhíl, which “will provide further employment opportunities and additional jobs during the construction phase”.

Separately, Mr Cloherty pointed out that Údarás na Gaeltachta’s masterplan for Ros an Mhíl Harbour predicts 400 new jobs through the creation of a ‘hub’ in Conamara for the ‘strategic development’ of the offshore wind industry along the west coast.

Údarás signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Sceirde Rocks Windfarm to establish and support education and training initiatives within the Conamara Gaeltacht, “to provide a skilled workforce to support the deployment of offshore wind projects”.

Mr Cloherty said one of the primary benefits to Conamara was a planned Community Benefit Fund which will deliver an estimated €70 million over 20 years to local communities.

This will commence as soon as construction starts.

“At this stage, Sceirde Rocks project would encourage and seek expressions of interest from people and groups to come together across villages and communities to develop plans and projects that would make the best use of the Community Benefit Fund,” Mr Cloherty said.

He said “support contributions totalling over €100,000” have already been made to local voluntary organisations, schools, community and environmental initiatives and services, and sporting and recreational organisations.

“This is reflective of the early-stage nature of the work to date, and we expect the value of contracts and community contributions to increase significantly as the project moves through the planning stage and then into construction and operation,” Mr Cloherty said.

Asked to comment on environmental concerns and the negative visual impact of the project, which have been raised in an online petition opposing the plans, the company said the project team have undertaken a comprehensive and detailed assessment of potential impacts of the project through a dedicated Environmental Impact Assessment.

“This assessment will consider any visible and non-visible effects the project will have on the people, environment, landscape, birds, wildlife, and marine life in the area.

“Offshore wind projects are subject to robust regulatory and planning processes, just like other major construction developments on land or sea. The Sceirde Rocks project has followed best practice with all analysis and surveys carried out – demonstrating that they are in line with good planning, national policy and meet relevant environmental standards,” Mr Cloherty said.

A socio-economic assessment report and tourism impact assessment report will form part of the Environmental Impact Assessment to be lodged with the planning application, he said.

“Sceirde Rocks was chosen as the most technically feasible location for the project. There are very few other suitable locations on the west coast for fixed-bottom offshore windfarms that can contribute to the country’s 2030 Climate Change targets. Other areas along the west coast further out to sea are too deep for fixed-bottom projects.

“We are proud to be able to offer a way to bring investment to the south and west coast of Conamara by harnessing its significant wind resource. Working with the community in Carna, we are committed to delivering cleaner energy to the Irish people, as well as supporting regional growth and development through the investment the project will bring to the region,” Mr Cloherty said.

“The windfarm will offer a significant economic, social and community investment into the Conamara area as well as providing a wide range of local employment and training opportunities. These long-term opportunities, linked to a natural renewable resource, are expected to have a significant positive impact on the region,” Mr Cloherty added.

He invited anyone who wishes to discuss the project to visit its local information office at the Gteic building in Carna.

Pictured: A map illustrating the scale of the Sceirde Rocks windfarm.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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