Members of MKO staff were in attendance for the ‘Renewable Energy Opportunity for the West of Ireland’ conference, in the G Hotel in Galway, on the 14th of April 2022. The conference was organised by the Port of Galway Company, with the theme of the conference focusing on “Ports as Energy Hubs – unlocking out natural offshore wind resource as a driver for economic growth.” With the planned redevelopment of Galway Harbour and the strategic location of the port, in the context of the Atlantic coast and its associated offshore wind potential, Galway has a unique opportunity to act as a leading example on how ports can be the centre of renewable energy investment, and help transition from our dependence on imported fossil fuels to cleaner, renewable alternatives.

The conference was chaired by Collette Fitzpatrick with a number of interesting panel discussions and guest speakers. The opportunity for questions and answers were provided at the end of each talk. The panel discussions opened up the conference with a number of key objectives and goals highlighted for Ireland’s renewable energy targets. Notably the long term goal of 30GW of offshore wind energy (Policy Statement on the Facilitation of Offshore Renewable Energy by Commercial Ports in Ireland – Department of Transport, December 2021) would see the requirement for c.3,000 turbines (depending on size, scale, and advancements in turbine technology) with the west coast and Galway Harbour a key component to help reach this long term goal.

A captivating speech was given by Dr. Eddie O’Connor of Supernode Ltd. on the export potential of offshore wind energy should Ireland reach these targets and produce energy surplus to requirements. The European Super Grid idea was discussed by Dr. O’Connor which, simply put, would see a linked up electrical grid for all European member states. A panel discussion was then held looking at Aberdeen port as an example of how to unlock offshore wind energy potential and also investigate the production of green hydrogen as a fuel source using electricity produced from windfarms for hydrolysis (i.e. the use of an electrical current to separate Hydrogen atoms from Oxygen atoms in water to produce H2 gas). This case study of Aberdeen is particularly relevant for Galway Port, and lent towards the key note speech delivered by An Taoiseach Micheál Martin after lunch.

An Taoiseach identified the unique opportunities that the west coast of Ireland, and in particular Galway Port, has to offer as we look to move away from our dependency on imported fossil fuels. The Taoiseach reiterated that this is now, more than ever, a key objective with the uncertainties caused by the war on Ukraine and the rising fuel costs following sanctions on Russia. An Taoiseach outlined that green hydrogen production is to be included as a key objective in the upcoming 2023 Government Climate Action Plan. An Taoiseach then announced the exciting news of the Galway Hydrogen Hub (GH2) project. GH2 is a consortium consisting of seven members – NUI Galway, the Port of Galway, CIÉ Group and Bus Éireann, Aran Islands Ferries, Lasta Mara Teo, Aer Arann Islands, and SSE Renewables. The consortium is proposing a new zero-emissions green hydrogen fuel facility developed at Galway Harbour, positioning Galway as the home of Ireland’s first Hydrogen Valley. More information will be announced in the coming weeks, with a dedicated website setup to provide access to this information (https://www.gh2.ie/)

MKO are delighted to be involved with the GH2 application, acting as lead planning and environmental consultants for the project, on what is a fantastic opportunity for Galway to lead the way in the production of clean renewable gas as an alternative to fossil fuels.