EirGrid’s role in connecting Offshore Renewable Energy


EirGrid, which is responsible for developing, managing, and operating Ireland’s electricity grid, aims to connect up to 5GW of offshore wind power to the national grid by 2030.

This is a vital element in realising the State’s commitment for renewable energy to meet up to 80% of Ireland’s annual electricity consumption by the end of the decade.

The 5GW of offshore wind power by 2030 is a first step on a path that will ultimately see over 30GW of energy coming from offshore wind turbines by 2050.

In March 2023, the Government published a framework that outlined a four-phase process for developing offshore wind energy infrastructure.

In the short-term, the framework is based on a developer-led approach, taking advantage of projects that have been in development for several years. In the medium to long-term it transitions to a plan-led approach in which EirGrid plays a key role.

Phase 1

This phase saw six projects participate in the first Offshore Renewable Electricity Support Scheme auction (ORESS 1 auction) – five off Ireland’s east coast, and one off the west coast.

In Phase 1, the wind turbines will be delivered and owned by private developers, which will also develop the offshore grid infrastructure connecting them to the onshore electricity grid.

The six projects participated in Ireland’s first offshore wind auction under ORESS 1, the results of which were announced on May 11th 2023. ORESS invites renewable energy projects to compete against each other to win contracts to provide electricity at the bid price for a 20-year period.

The auction secured over 3GW of capacity from four offshore wind projects at an average of €86.05/MWh. This will deliver over 12 terawatt hours of renewable electricity per year.

EirGrid is responsible for providing onshore grid connections for these wind farms, and will eventually take ownership of the offshore grid infrastructure for Phase 1 wind farms.

Phase 2

The second phase will see up to 900 megawatts of electricity supplied from wind farms off Ireland’s south coast.

The wind turbines will again be provided by private developers, but EirGrid will be responsible for delivering the infrastructure that will connect the power from these wind farms off the south coast to the onshore grid.

This will be realised through EirGrid’s Shaping Our Offshore Energy Future programme, which will see offshore electricity substations placed off the south coast – one in an area off the coast of Cork, and one off the coast of Waterford or Wexford.

EirGrid will provide connections between these offshore substations and new onshore substations using undersea and underground electricity cables.

No decisions have yet been made on precisely where the offshore substations will be located, or how and where they will connect to the national electricity grid onshore.

EirGrid is undertaking studies to determine what options are available, and will be consulting on the different options when they are complete in early 2024. Consultation and engagement is also taking place with communities close to the study areas, as well as marine stakeholders.

As with the first phase, Phase 2 will involve the installation of fixed-bottom turbines which can be deployed at scale within the required timeframe.

Phase 2 will also include additional auctions on the east and potentially west coast to realise the 5GW Government ambition by 2030.

Phase 3

Phase 3 aims to support the long-term potential for a floating offshore wind industry.

The Government has set an initial target of 2GW of floating offshore wind to be in development by 2030. This may include the development of projects devoted to production of green hydrogen, to create the necessary environment to develop an indigenous hydrogen industry, and projects devoted to other non-grid uses.

It is anticipated that this 2GW may not be connected to the electricity grid in the traditional manner. A Phase 3 policy document will be developed and published early in 2024.

Enduring Regime

Projects under this phase start to be deployed at the end of this decade. The Enduring Regime will see greater State involvement in the development of the sector, in terms of where projects are developed, when they are developed, and where the energy generated will be used.

This plan-led approach will optimise and expedite the development of offshore and onshore energy grid infrastructure to enable Ireland to become a major regional producer and exporter of green energy, whilst bolstering security of supply.

This will include future development by EirGrid and the private sector of additional European cross-border connectivity, such as point-to-point and hybrid electricity interconnectors, and offshore energy islands.