Head of International Offshore Energy Division,
Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications

The following article is a direct response from the Department of the Environment,
Climate and Communications on Blue Horizons articles that ran within The Munster Express in
editions dated 21st May 2024 and 4th June 2024.


Ireland has one of the best, but as yet, unrealised offshore wind resources in the world. Realising this resource will drive Ireland’s clean energy transition by severing the link with imported fossil fuels, while at the same time securing our future economic prosperity through providing a clean, affordable and secure source of renewable energy for future generations of Irish households and businesses. Establishing an indigenous offshore wind industry will further create thousands of local and regional jobs and attract new investment opportunities.

On 3 May, the Department of the Environment Climate and Communications published the State’s first draft spatial plan for offshore renewable energy generation, known as the draft South Coast Designated Maritime Area Plan (SC-DMAP).  This plan identifies four maritime areas off the south coast in which development of offshore renewable energy is proposed to take place over the next decade. The four maritime areas currently out for consultation are located off the Waterford, Wexford and Cork coast and have been identified following a comprehensive environmental assessment process and an almost year-long engagement process with coastal communities and key stakeholders.

Publication of the draft SC-DMAP is a landmark event in forward spatial planning and demonstrates a system change for how we manage and plan our extensive maritime area. This draft spatial plan and associated environmental assessments are currently undergoing a 6-week statutory consultation process, which will conclude on 14 June. To date, this consultation has included 14 in person public events in Waterford, Wexford and Cork, as well as 3 webinars and additional meetings with key regional stakeholder groups. It follows a nine week-long public consultation in August to October 2023.

The preparation of this draft DMAP has been positively influenced by direct engagements with coastal communities in Waterford, Cork and Wexford during the last 12 months, which represents the most extensive engagement process carried out by Government on a single climate policy. In particular, the draft plan addresses concerns that the identification of future offshore wind development areas would be exclusively driven by cost considerations, to the detriment of the marine environment and biodiversity, and other maritime users.

While there is no greater threat to marine ecosystems and biodiversity than climate change, the draft DMAP prohibits offshore wind developments taking place within maritime areas identified as being of greatest environmental sensitivity. This includes prohibitions of offshore wind development within maritime areas off the South Coast that enjoy current or candidate EU Special Protected Area (SPA) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC) status. The draft DMAP is a sufficiently flexible to allow for its future amendment to reflect new environmental designations, such as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), and improved environmental data. These measures represent a direct response to community concerns raised during public consultation. The DMAP aims to bring certainty to communities, those who use the maritime area for employment but also to offshore wind developers.  It is not a shortcut in the consenting process. Any proposed future offshore wind project will be subject to further robust environmental assessment as part of the statutory planning application process to An Bord Pleanála. Individuals and communities will still be able to fully participate in the planning process and to scrutinise and make submissions on any proposed development in the DMAP area as part of that process.

Distance to shore of wind turbines

As well as avoiding areas of highest environmental sensitivity, the location of the four maritime areas for proposed offshore wind developments in the draft DMAP will place Ireland amongst the most ambitious global countries when it comes to the development of deep water fixed offshore wind projects. This ambition includes selection of the maritime area known as Tonn Nua, identified for the first offshore wind deployment within the draft DMAP, that aims for development within the next decade, and ideally by 2030. Indeed, with an average depth of 57 metres, Tonn Nua would represent the deepest fixed offshore wind project developed anywhere in the world to date. This ambition is a direct response to feedback received during consultation with local communities, which highlighted concerns that offshore wind projects would be located  in the most economically attractive shallower waters close to shore.

At 12.2 kilometres from shore at its closest point, it is important to note that the location of An Tonn Nua and its distance to shore, is fully consistent with offshore wind projects taking place throughout Europe.Any suggestion that international best practice dictates locating offshore wind projects a prescribed distance from shore, for instance 20 kilometres, is simply untrue. While there are three additional maritime areas identified for offshore wind developments to be completed in the middle of the next decade, the removal of the Tonn Nua maritime area would not be consistent with decarbonising the Irish economy and meeting our legally binding national and EU climate objectives. As well as threatening Ireland’s clean energy transition, seeking to deploy offshore windfarms in waters of 70 metres or greater within the next decade could result in a dramatic increase in the costs of heating and powering Irish households, businesses, schools and hospitals. It is also likely that it simply would not be built.

Economic opportunities resulting from South Coast DMAP

While identification of proposed offshore wind development areas has not been led by cost considerations alone, implementation of the draft plan would deliver very significant opportunities for regional economic development. The extent of this opportunity is borne out in an independent analysis published alongside the draft DMAP, highlighting potential direct inward investment of almost €3 billion to the counties of Waterford, Cork and Wexford over the lifetime of the offshore wind projects. The analysis further estimates that implementation of the DMAP could result in the creation of more than 32 thousand direct full time annual jobs in the South Coast region. These direct opportunities for regional development and jobs creation along the South Coast are in addition to wider benefits associated with accelerating Ireland’s green energy transition, and bolstering future energy security and affordability for future generations of households and businesses that will secure the country’s long term, sustainable economic prosperity.

Plan ensures State is first EU country to place coexistence with fishers on a statutory footing

The draft South Coast DMAP is evidence that Ireland is demonstrating tangible leadership in the marine space – not least by being the first EU country to place statutory obligations on offshore renewable energy developers which aim to maximise opportunities for co-existence between offshore wind energy developments and commercial fisheries and aquaculture. New policy measures within this draft plan will help to facilitate this, demonstrating that we are fully committed to ensuring that the fishing sector is protected from any potential adverse impacts on fishing associated with offshore wind development.Importantly, these policy measures have been informed by engaging directly with individual fishers along the South and South East coast. This has also included engagements with experts, including fishing representatives in other jurisdictions, such as the UK, about what needs to happen at a government and project level to facilitate windfarm and fishing coexistence. This is the South Coast’s opportunity.

The public consultation on this draft development plan for offshore renewable energy off the south coast began on 03 May and will close on Friday 14 June. To find out how to make a submission or to read the draft SC-DMAP and the environmental reports, along with some updates and recently published additional documentation, visit


Map of south coast.