Project title: Developing Offshore Wind Energy Seabed Zonation Tools (WindEaZ)
Researcher: Felix Butschek
The question of ‘where to develop offshore wind farms?’ is essential to the success of individual offshore wind projects, the industry and the national discussion about renewable energy at large. The feasibility, cost, and profitability of an offshore wind array will depend heavily on its location. Choosing the right area for a wind farm can de-risk projects by easing consentability and reducing capital investment as well as operational expenditure for developers. In minimizing environmental impacts and conflicts among maritime stakeholders, a thorough site selection process will benefit the developer, environment and society as a whole. This project builds on work to improve an offshore wind-energy GIS model. Specific WindEaZ aims include: improved targeting for development zones; production of new GIS data; assessment of relative importance of marine spatial data; and construction of a GIS model for offshore wind energy site assessments in Irish waters.
The scientific objective of WindEaZ is to improve the SEAI developed GIS-tool by focusing on key development areas. Collaborators in the EirWind GIS data management work package have collected data and generated new models to advance offshore wind farm site selection around Ireland. These are being refined and improved in a collaborative effort. WindEaZ attempts to synthesize the cornucopia of data and factors influencing offshore wind farm site selection. Based on priorities established through an analytical hierarchy process, the project develops a multiple criteria decision aid (MCDA) to address this complex spatial problem. We propose a stochastic modelling method to identify the most (and least) favourable areas for offshore wind energy developments around Ireland using Monte Carlo simulations. The integration of an analytical hierarchy process, MCDA and Monte Carlo simulations to assess opportunities of and constraints for the offshore wind industry at a national level is a novel approach to creating seabed zonation tools.