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Written Answers. - Alternative Energy Project.

Wednesday, 6 February 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 547 No. 4

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 42. Proinsias De Rossa Information on Prionsias De Rossa Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey  if he will make a statement on the lease granted for an offshore windfarm on the Arklow bank; when it is expected to come on stream; and if he has satisfied himself that all reasonable precautions have been taken to limit a possible threat to fish or bird life. [3489/02]

Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. Fahey): Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey The foreshore lease which I signed on 11 January last entitles the developer to site a maximum of 200 turbines with a total nominal rating of 520 megawatts, MW, on the Arklow bank and to connect them by a maximum of three subsea cables to the national grid at the ESB sub station at Arklow. The developer intends to build the project over four phases with one phase during each year's weather window, approximately between April and September. I understand that the developer hopes to have the first turbines constructed during this year with first connection to the grid in 2003.

The lease is, however, subject to the developer having in place, before work commences, the necessary authorisation to construct and licence to generate from the Commission for Electricity Regulation.

The first phase is for 60 MW which will be less than 20 turbines. The Arklow bank is a quite desolate place with little or no support for plant or fish life in the conditions which exist there. There is little international experience of the impacts of offshore wind turbines on fish and bird life. What experience there is suggests that we can expect that the foundations will, through the encouragement of growth of seaweeds, algae, etc., support life forms new to the area and eventually develop into a nursery for various fish species. This should assist in the development of fish stocks and sea angling.

There is little information about birdlife around the Arklow bank, which is not a feeding area. Each bird species reacts differently to intrusion of any kind and this aspect is being and [1571] will be closely monitored for a period of at least five years after completion of the development. The lease conditions require the developer to continue monitoring impacts upon birdlife and to report findings to both my Department and to BirdWatch Ireland. Additionally I have insisted that the developer co-operate with BirdWatch should that organisation express interest in carrying out its own observations. To this end, subject to BirdWatch having sufficient funds for the balance of the expense involved, I have insisted that the developer contribute the sum of €100,000 toward the cost of an observation tower on the Bank. Experience in Danish waters, which is limited to impacts on the eider duck and common scoter, would tend to suggest that there will not be a problem but I have sufficient powers to halt further development in the event of unanticipated and unacceptable environmental problems of any kind arising. The environmental safeguards in the lease go much further than those sought by BirdWatch Ireland in the submission it made following an invitation from my Department.

The proposed development was not the subject of any objections during the public consultation process and has been welcomed by a wide selection of local groups and representative organisations.

Should Deputies wish to examine a copy of the lease it can be downloaded from my Department's web site.

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