Offshore wind energy could create 2,500 jobs over the next ten years and could attract over €42 billion in lifetime investment.

Those findings are included in a new report carried out by the Carbon Trust for the Irish Wind Energy Association.

The report outlines the potential for the sector, but says that Ireland neither has the infrastructure nor the capacity to capture the benefits of the coming energy revolution.

At the moment, Ireland has just one operational offshore wind farm at Arklow Bank.

However, last week the Government gave the go ahead for another seven to enter the planning stage.

Dr David Connolly, the CEO of the Irish Wind Energy Association, said in the years ahead, offshore wind farms will play a huge part in meeting Ireland's 2030 targets set out in the Government's Climate Action Plan.

"About a year ago the Government set a target to develop 3.5 GW of offshore wind by 2030, from practically a starting point of zero. In the Climate Action Plan, what became very apparent was just how important of a role offshore wind energy will play," Dr Connolly said. 

"In terms of the entire carbon emissions that the Government wanted to save in the plan, offshore wind energy alone will account for about 25%," he said.

In addition to reducing Ireland's carbon emissions, Dr Connolly said the creation of offshore farms will offer a "significant" boost to the Irish economy over the next decade.

However, he said if Ireland doesn't act soon, developers will be forced to use ports like Belfast, Mostyn or Barrow to construct the proposed wind farms, because no port in the Republic meets all the requirements to serve the construction of an offshore wind farm.

"Currently there isn't a single port capable of delivering the construction phase of an offshore wind farm. If we invest in a port now, that could be ready in a few years time when we start constructing these offshore wind farms and we would increase our capability from about one fifth of the potential to about one third," he said.

"That is a real opportunity for Ireland to harness not just the 2,500 direct jobs, but to expand that further if we invested in a strategic port," he added. 

The report provides an examination of the suitability of 16 ports for supporting the construction of offshore wind farms in Irish waters.

Dr Connolly said the first set of offshore projects will be located on the east coast of the country.

"We have shortlisted a number of ports. They include Rosslare, Dublin and Greenore. We need to focus now on investing in what we think will be one strategic port that will be upgraded to support the construction works of offshore wind farms into the future."

The report also makes a number of recommendations to address the skills gap in the sector.

It suggests bringing together schools, universities and training bodies to ensure that Irish workers can compete for the 2,500 construction and 700 permanent jobs that are expected to be created over the next ten years.

Meanwhile, a study published on Monday reveals significant support for offshore wind farms in Irish waters.

The survey released by MaREI, the SFI Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine hosted by University College Cork, details the opinions and attitudes of 1,154 people who took part.

87% of people surveyed said they would not object to the development of an offshore wind farm off the coast of their locality, while 93% of those questioned would not object to the development of an offshore wind farm anywhere in Irish waters.