New ESB multi-billion pound wind farms planned for the Irish Sea
The ESB is plotting a major drive into offshore wind farm construction that is likely to run into billions of euro.
The Republic's state-owned electricity company has put out a tender seeking "the provision of renewable energy marine services related to offshore wind farms".
It says it is planning to develop or acquire the wind farms from next year, through a pipeline of projects going through the planning process.
Individual projects are expected to range between 200 megawatts and 500 megawatts in size, though some could be bigger. The plan is to locate the farms in the Irish Sea.
There is only one offshore wind farm constructed in the Republic - the Arklow bank project off the coast of Wicklow.
Industry sources said the construction cost per megawatt for an offshore wind farm is now in the region of €2m (£1.84m), having fallen in recent years. That means a 200-megawatt project would cost around €400m (£368m) and a 500-megawatt project would cost around €1bn (£920m).
It's likely that the ESB would enter into partnerships to build the farms rather than funding the whole cost itself. The tender documents envisage that joint ventures may be entered into.
Potential construction partners would include the likes of Danish company Dong Energy or Japan's Mitsubishi, while institutional investors may provide financial backing.
"Offshore technologies are now well established and the cost of electricity production from these sources continues to decline. We are working on early and mid-stage development opportunities in Ireland and the UK," the ESB said.