A €5bn plan to transform electricity production at the Moneypoint power plant in Co Clare from coal burning to offshore wind production is being proposed by the ESB as part of a major decarbonisation of its power network.
Moneypoint is the only coal burning power plant in Ireland and both the Government and the ESB have committed to ending coal burning there by 2025 as part of the national climate action plan.
It has emerged that offshore wind power produced by ocean-based wind farms could be the new green technology to replace the fossil fuel used at Moneypoint, which has been one of the country's biggest producers of greenhouse gases for some time.
Moneypoint produces around 25% of the country's power, but coal-based production has been reduced there in the past number of years as it moves towards ending coal burning power production.
This had brought fears locally that the plant may close, and up to 100 jobs have been scaled back as a result of voluntary job cuts and the plant now employs up to 80 people.
But the ESB has said that Moneypoint is an important location on the country's electricity power production system and it is confident it will continue to play a role in Ireland's move towards low carbon energy systems.
It is expected that the ESB will announce a partnership with Equinor, the former Statoil company. to construct wind farm production facilities in two phases on large sites to be located in the Shannon estuary between counties Clare and Kerry.
It is also expected that the project could produce enough electricity to power 1.5 million homes, and the power generated by the offshore wind would then be distributed to the national network through Moneypoint.
However, it is a massive infrastructure project which will take several years to construct, and is not likely to be producing power until 2028.
Details of the project are expected to be confirmed by the ESB tomorrow, but Clare Green Party Senator Roisin Garvey has confirmed the project will go ahead.
She welcomed the initiative as a major step forward in the production of green powered electricity, a major boost to west Clare and confirmation of the role the Moneypoint plant will play in the future of that green energy production.
Independent TD for Clare Michael McNamara has also said the proposed development of the 270 sq km project will place Moneypoint at the centre of Ireland's offshore energy strategy.
The Shannon estuary has already been identified as a location with huge potential for floating offshore wind farms because of its natural deep waters and its Atlantic wind resources.
A report commissioned late last year by Shannon Foynes Port Company also found that Ireland could be a net exporter of this type of renewable power, and a producer of green hydrogen using electricity produced by such offshore wind farms.
That report found that the available wind resources along the Shannon estuary could generate up to 70 gigawatts of floating offshore power, far in excess of Ireland's domestic needs which could then be exported.
This type of energy produced offshore is already attracting significant investment in Scotland, Norway Denmark and Holland, using turbine structures anchored to the sea bed which are more cost efficient producers of power.
Fianna Fáil Senator Timmy Dooley said in addition to producing offshore floating wind power the energy can be used to produce hydrogen, which he said is the fuel of the future and will be used in buses and heavy goods vehicles generally.
The displacement of carbon emitting fuels as a result will be transformational for our environment. Substantial and sustainable jobs can be created here too, Mr Dooley added.
"Additionally, we can produce hydrogen from wind generated at off-peak periods, such as night-time and when there is excess wind blowing. That hydrogen can then be stored and used to generate electricity at the Moneypoint power station for peak consumption periods when we don't have enough wind energy to power the grid," he said.