Informing and Mapping the Offshore Renewable Environment (I-MORE)
Due to the relative immaturity of the offshore wind sector in Ireland compared to Europe, Irish offshore renewable energy will be a subsidised industry. Offshore wind, in particular, is the only technology with sufficient scale to enable Ireland to meet its renewable energy targets. However, while promoting offshore wind energy and encouraging development, Ireland also needs to be mindful of the cost of this subsidy to the exchequer and therefore we need to ensure a competitive system that minimises the Levelised Cost of Energy (LCOE).
The I-MORE project will act as a key enabler for this reduction in LCOE by providing early stage site condition information to assist in key decision making for offshore wind development. The value of this information at an early stage in the development process includes:
(i) Optimised Site Selection – having information at an early stage allows the best possible offshore wind sites to be selected, with the best possible chance of reducing LCOE;
(ii) Accelerated Development – providing information at project early stages allows it to curtail the development timeline, reducing costs and bringing forward the time to first generation;
(iii) Increased Investment Interest –reducing the uncertainty associated with the site conditions will
greater levels of international investment interest; and;
(iv) Reduced Cost of Finance –uncertainty associated with ground conditions is one of the biggest project risks and adds to the cost of finance: one of the most significant development costs.
The UCC component of this project aims to do geophysical and geological appraisal of potential windfarm development sites and assist with further geological/geotechnical surveying
1. Identify the critical data required for early stage offshore wind farm development based on European best practice and in particular interrogating the data available in those countries that have managed to reduce LCOE and achieve zero subsidy rates for offshore wind auctions.
2. Gather, analyse and interpret existing INFOMAR geophysical data (including shallow subbottom seismic that has been collected through historical INFOMAR survey campaigns). This data is currently raw and archived within the GSI but could be processed to inform shallow ground conditions and assist with site identification. This I-MORE project will leverage the survey work already completed to get best value out of the existing data.
3. Plan and execute a new survey campaign that will be informed by the new geophysical data interpretation. This campaign will comprise both geotechnical and metocean data gathering. The geotechnical data shall be obtained through offshore CPT testing, combined with vibrocore measurements.
4. The new geotechnical data will be integrated with the legacy geophysical data to develop a new sub-surface conceptual map for the pilot area. This map output can be used to inform the potential for offshore wind energy through a combined suitability, constraint and hazard analysis.
5. The final output will be presented as a geotechno-stratigraphic framework and classification for the Irish specific seabed conditions.
6. A framework for (i) marine spatial planning and (ii) the wider offshore wind development process will be presented that could utilise the existing study information to reduce LCOE.
7. Finally, this pilot study will be adopted as a test study to determine whether this approach should be rolled out on a national basis as part of an extension to the existing INFOMAR remit. I-MORE will deliver a novel dataset, which will be interpreted and integrated with existing data to provide valuable input to the offshore wind energy development process.