Design Review & Updates
What is in this update?
Here you will find an outline of information gathered on key areas that are likely to influence the future path of NISA’s design and development and how this information is being incorporated into our design process.
Design Review Stage
The NISA project is currently in the Design Layout stage based on information gained from recent surveys and engagement.
|DESIGN STAGES OVERVIEW|
Based on high-level information
Fluid and open to change
Surveys & Design Review
Incorporation of information gathered into the design process
CURRENT STAGE - Drafting of public consultation materials
Ready for presentation to the relevant planning authority
Above is an overview of the high-level steps in the development process. Formal design reviews are carried out at various stages of the design process. Importantly, these reviews are based on information obtained about different aspects of the project.
Layouts have matured to support submission to ORESS1 in May 2023. These designs were created based on the results of the extensive surveys that began in 2019 to establish the areas technically suitable/unsuitable for the location of individual turbines and as such, influence the wind farm layouts being considered.
Photomontages of the proposed working design layout are available to view in our Virtual Consultation Room.
SURVEYS - Findings & Considerations
The potential benefits of NISA to Ireland’s energy security and climate action targets are indisputable. But we also want to ensure that the project can exist in harmony with the area’s local communities, biodiversity, and its landscape.
To that end, we have spent the past several years carrying out a raft of on- and offshore studies, while seeking feedback from the people who will live closest to this proposal. Seabed surveys and consultation with local stakeholders have been a vital part of informing the layout and visual aspect of the project, while we have also investigated any potential impact of the proposal on the people living and working closest to it, as well as the surrounding environment and biodiversity. The results of these findings are being incorporated into the design process.
Throughout 2022, offshore surveys were carried out in the proposed area, with vessels present in the survey area up until early December. These vessels were gathering information on the underlying geological and seabed conditions in a variety of ways such as geophysical surveys, benthic surveys and geotechnical site investigations including cone penetration tests (CPTs) and bore holes.
While the results of these surveys are still being assessed, it has become apparent that the conditions inside the site boundaries vary significantly. Earlier design layouts being considered for NISA had assumed a high degree of uniformity across the area; however, results from our surveys have provided greater information on the conditions. Securing this information has been critical to allow the design team work towards establishing the most appropriate design and construction methods for the proposal.
Our team is currently assessing this information and working to establish how it might influence the form that the NISA proposal should take.
Onshore Site Surveys
The NISA project has undertaken extensive site survey efforts both onshore and offshore to provide vital information regarding the environmental and technical characterisation of the project area. Onshore, NISA have undertaken ecological, archaeological, noise, traffic, and watercourse surveys to survey efforts to inform the landfall location, onshore cable routing and proposed construction methodologies.
The results of these surveys are being incorporated into the design review and will inform the final design and layout of the NISA project.
At an early stage in the development process, all Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), Special Protection Areas (SPA), National Heritage Areas (NHA), Refuges for Fauna and Statutory Nature Reserves in the locality of the proposed site – offshore, along the coastline and onshore were identified.
The Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) being conducted by the project team is considering the potential impacts of the construction, operational and maintenance and decommissioning phases of the proposed development, both on onshore and offshore.
In this proposed project, as with all our sites, we will be working hard to minimise any negative impacts on surrounding areas and seeking to identify opportunities that the project may have to enhance the local environment and biodiversity.
As our understanding of the local area grows, there is always the potential for environmental considerations to alter An example of this is the proposed designation of the Northwest Irish Sea cSPA. This cSPA is proposed for specific bird species which are an integral part of our environment assessment process. Constraints identified are incorporated into the design process as it evolves. This is an ongoing process.
Offshore, the NISA survey efforts began in 2019 with ornithology (bird) surveys. Seabirds, migratory birds and intertidal bird species within the project area were identified and counted over a three-year survey period.
Identified species included the Herring Gull, Kittiwake, Manx Shearwater, Razorbill, Gannet, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Roseate and Common Tern.
Protecting bird and mammalian habitats is of the utmost importance. The species found in the proposed NISA project area are being carefully assessed to ensure their protection. We will endeavour to ensure that NISA minimises negative impact on the local biodiversity – either onshore or offshore.
Throughout the design process, sustainability has been a key consideration when it comes to every species found within the project area. The marine mammals identified in the proposed area of NISA include whales, seals, dolphins, and harbour porpoises. Other important species surveyed include offshore bats.
Not only will these species be considered as part of the NISA Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process; the presence of these mammals will inform our planned Sustainability Strategy to deliver biodiversity enhancements for the local area over the lifetime of the NISA project.
LOCAL FEEDBACK & ATTITUDES
We want to know how people really feel about NISA. In late 2019, we started talking to the public and fishermen about the project – and since then, our Community Liaison Officer and Fisheries Liaison Officer have been working to gather feedback from people living and working in the area.
The thoughts of the public and the local fishing industry on how the project can be delivered suitably and appropriately has been – and continues to be – vital for our work in bringing NISA to life.
Our engagement to date has shown that the need for the development of renewable energy was well-understood. In addition to establishing our project website and hosting in-person and virtual consultations we have gathered valuable feedback. Our project Community Liaison Officer (CLO) Jim O’Reilly has been working to meet with groups and individuals across the area to ensure we provide information and understand any concerns. Below is some of the feedback we have gathered:
What benefits people see
- Energy Security
- NISA has the capacity to secure our own energy future and reduce Ireland’s dependence on costly and polluting imported fossil fuels.
- Climate Action
- The project will displace around half a million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
- Electricity Prices
- Having our own secure energy supply will shield us from global market energy price increases and continue to help protect families and businesses from the worst effects of a crisis caused by our over-reliance on fossil fuels. We can tap into our own natural resources and roll out clean, affordable energy that will not break the bank.
- It is very important to the NISA team that the project is developed and operates in a sustainable way. NISA will deliver a vast amount of renewable energy on to our electricity grid, providing a sustainable energy future. However, the team is also investigating the proposed project’s capability to deliver broader sustainability objectives through biodiversity, circular economy, and energy initiatives.
- Community Benefit Funds
- For NISA, the Community Benefit Fund is expected to amount to more than €4 million per year over the lifetime of the scheme – supporting environmental initiatives, energy efficiency schemes, community projects and the fishing industry.
- Offshore wind creates employment opportunities in areas such as manufacturing, construction, scientific research, and electricity generation, with developers providing training to create the high-skilled workforce needed for these projects. Furthermore, the NISA project team is committed to delivering the maximum benefit possible to the local areas from the development and operation of this project. A Business Support Scheme will be developed as part of this project, encouraging local businesses to offer services such as engineering services, hospitality, fuel supply or office space.
- No impact or damage to beaches or coastline
- Several people expressed concern about the potential impact to the area of coastline in which cables would come onshore. For this project, both open-cut and trenchless drilling methods were considered. Trenchless has been deemed the most appropriate option as feedback from our engagement process was that people would rather not see the coastline disturbed. We are confident that this methodology can be applied.
- Feedback from local residents has demonstrated that while visuals are very important, there is a willingness to consider the development of an offshore development like NISA in the locality largely based on an appreciation of the energy security challenges we face and the need to develop renewable energy. The visual aspect of NISA has always been – and will remain – a very important consideration. As part of the design review process, visual impact assessments are carried out of any design layouts being considered. Once a revised layout proposal can be established following our recent surveys, we will share new photomontages of how the proposal may look.
- Feedback was received regarding potential impacts the project could have on marine life, sea birds and mammals as well as the local environment. The afore-mentioned Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) considers the potential impacts of the construction, operational and maintenance and decommissioning phases of the proposed development, both on- and offshore. In NISA, as with all our projects, we will be doing our utmost to avoid any negative impacts on the surrounding areas while seeking opportunities to enhance biodiversity and the local environment. The project team is considering the sustainability of this project through the various stages of construction and operation with the view to ensuring that the project is delivered in the most environmentally appropriate manner.
The NISA proposal is located in an area that is predominantly fished by trawlers with the target species being Nephrops. Balancing the need for the development of renewable energy and maintaining the sustainability of the local fishing community is an issue that is to the forefront of consideration for the project team and has been since the early stages of active development.
NISA is endeavouring to incorporate the ‘towing directions’ (the direction that trawlers travel to fish the area) into the design layout of the project along with providing ‘trawl corridors’ that will provide adequate spacing between turbines with the intention of providing conditions that will allow trawlers to safely operate within the wind farm.
The top concerns for fisheries are exclusion zones, the impact on incomes and how NISA could affect fish stocks.
To address these concerns, we are working on designs that avoid the need for exclusion zones, proactively engaging with the local fishing community, considering the financial aspects of any related disturbance, working towards coexistence, and exploring opportunities to enhance the sustainability of local fish stocks.
In addition, the impact of offshore cable routes and other factors are being considered. Near shore, where cables would come ashore it is likely that NISA will cross some areas utilised for potting and other types of fishing. These are also being considered by the design review team.
THE NISA PARTNERSHIP
In January 2023, Statkraft teamed up with Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP), a global leader in offshore wind energy projects. To deliver a project as significant as NISA, it is vital for Statkraft to partner with a company with a successful track record and expertise in offshore wind development. CIP and its construction partners Copenhagen Offshore Partners (COP) have years of experience in financing and developing offshore wind projects around the world. This new and exciting partnership with CIP will complement Statkraft’s development work, enabling the project to harness the power of offshore wind and deliver clean energy to Ireland’s homes and businesses.
The Community Benefit Fund gives power to the people – because it is the local community that decides where the money is spent.
In the case of NISA, the funding would reach approximately €80 million over the lifetime of the project – giving residents the unprecedented and unparalleled opportunity to bring about transformative and positive change to their local community.
Not only would the fund allow communities to develop new and exciting initiatives in their own areas; it would also support existing local amenities and clubs, environmental and energy efficiency schemes, as well as the fishing industry.
Community Benefit Fund
Earlier this year, the Department of Environment, Climate Action and Communications published the Community Benefit Funds rulebook for offshore wind energy projects. This confirmed a requirement that generators pay €2 per MWh of electricity generated from offshore wind over the lifetime of the Offshore Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (ORESS) to a fund aimed at supporting the local areas. As high levels of offshore generation are expected, the amount of funding available for local amenities and clubs could be significant. For NISA, it is estimated that this would be in the region of €4 million per year or €80 million over the lifetime of the scheme.
We have already started to engage with local community groups on the process and we expect several applications to be submitted in the coming months.
Commitment to the local area
Becoming part of a vibrant coastal community is of immense importance to the NISA team. Last year, we supported several initiatives in the locality such as the Progressive Credit Union GP14 World Championships in August 2022. This was a significant event for Skerries Sailing Club which had last hosted the championships in 1997. The NISA project supported two racing days at the event, allowing the team the opportunity to meet with residents, business owners and other stakeholders.
NISA also worked with other groups in Skerries and Rush to support festivals and Christmas activities. In addition, the team supported transition-year students in six local schools to participate in Rewrite – a blended learning programme that focus on existing climate change solutions, future innovations, and the opportunities for students interested in the area. We hope to expand our sponsorship of Rewrite with additional schools in 2023.
We began our ongoing consultation process approximately in 2021. Our CLO Jim O’Reilly has engaged with a wide range of individuals and groups, including residents, community organisations, sea users, local councillors, and national politicians in the area. The findings of this consultation work are fed back to our design team on an ongoing basis so that they can consider any concerns raised.
To date, our CLO has had over 1,000 engagements with local stakeholders. In addition, he has engaged with people on a personal level to give them the opportunity to properly consider and discuss the proposal. We hosted a series of public consultation events across six coastal communities in June 2023 where we visited Skerries, Balbriggan, Clogherhead, Bettystown, Malahide and Sutton. A Virtual Consultation Room was first launched in November 2020 with a second Virtual Consultation Room going live in July 2023. All of these events were developed and advertised to enable people to learn more about the project and give their feedback.
We hosted our second round of Public Consultation Events in November 2023. We will continue to be available for any enquiries that residents, businesses, and other stakeholders may have via the contact features on this site. Our aim is not just to engage with local stakeholders, but to become part of the fabric of these communities.