Ireland’d ESB has taken a 50 percent stake in EDF’s 450-megawatt Neart na Gaoithe offshore wind project off the east coast of Scotland. Financial details have not been disclosed.
ESB controls Ireland’s transmission and distribution networks as well as generating 42 percent of the island of Ireland’s power.
The news came as EDF announced it had reached financial close on the project, which it acquired last year from Mainstream Renewable Power. The project has a 15-year Contract for Difference with the U.K. government at a price of £114.39 per megawatt hour ($147.89).
Earlier this month ESB sealed a partnership with Norwegian oil firm and offshore wind developer Equinor. The pair will collaborate on joint bids in Ireland’s own offshore wind tenders.
“Offshore wind is one of the main technologies underpinning the clean electricity systems that will power our societies into the future. This investment in the Neart na Gaoithe project builds on significant ESB involvement in offshore wind off the Irish coast as ESB develops its experience to assist Ireland deliver its Climate Action Plan,” said Pat O’Doherty, CEO, ESB.
Ireland’s Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) is expected expected to yield around 3.5 gigawatts of offshore wind projects.
The first round requires winning bidders to grid-connect before the end of 2022. It had previously been expected that the initial round would require grid connection by the end of 2020 to help the country get closer to its clinate targets by the end of that year. That would have ruled out offshore wind.
Authorities have acknowledged the target for 40 percent of its electricity to come from renewables by end-2020 will be missed. It is also missing its emissions reduction goal. Both targets are part of its EU-level commitments. The country faces the prospect of hundreds of millions of euros in fines from Brussels as a result. In May, the minister handling the climate brief, Richard Bruton said Ireland could look to purchase carbon credits instead at a cost of €150 million ($165 million).
Ireland is aiming for 70 percent renewables in its power mix by 2030 as it looks to improve on what its own government admits is a poor record. In total around 12 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity is likely to be commissioned by the RESS program.
ESB and Equinor have said their partnership will focus on identifying sites that can be connected prior to that 2030 date. The pair said they would also be looking for opportunities to incorporate energy storage and would consider both floating and fixed-bottom projects. 
Equinor is developing the 88-megawatt Hywind Tampen project, which will be the largest floating wind project once complete.

As well as confirming the financial close, EDF has revealed the key contract awards for Neart na Gaoithe. The project will use 8-megawatt turbines from Siemens Gamesa. Turbine assembly will take place at the Port of Dundee. Eyemouth Harbour is the preferred option for the operations base that will support 50 full-time jobs during the 25-year project lifetime. The 54 jackets will be supplied and installed by Saipem. “A number” will be built by the local BiFab yard in Scotland.

The prospect of the jackets being made in Indonesia by an Italian firm then shipped to the U.K. has proven politically sensitive. The BiFab yard has struggled and received a number of loans from the Scottish government prior to having those loans converted to a stake in the business.
Scottish energy minister Paul Wheelhouse indicated in a statement provided to GTM that it would like to see local content requirements incorporated into the U.K. government’s Contracts for Difference program.
The Scottish Government’s finance secretary Derek Mackay welcomed today's news calling it a "step in the right direction."