International oil company Shell has set the seal on deal to take a majority stake in the 1.35GW Western Star floating wind project being developed in the Irish Atlantic by Simply Blue.

The agreement to acquire a 51% share in the mega-project, follows a similar buy-in to the 1GW Emerald floating wind project off Ireland in the Celtic Sea, also launched by Simply Blue.

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Western Star, which Recharge first reported on in March, is planned as a staged co-development, with a lead-off 300MW-450MW phase followed by as second stage 700MW-900MW to follow, built around 15MW and 18MW turbines, respectively.

At full power the development could supply electricity to over 1 million Irish homes.

“Shell has a clear ambition to be a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050, in step with society,” said Shell’s offshore wind general manager for Europe Hessel de Jong.

“We aim to provide more renewable power to consumers and businesses alike. Working alongside coastal communities to create shared value is key to success for both the Western Star floating wind project and the previously announced Emerald project, which is why we have chosen to work with Simply Blue.”

Simply Blue chief commercial director Hugh Kelly said: “There is tremendous wind potential off the west coast of Ireland and Simply Blue are delighted to partner once again with Shell to jointly develop the Western Star project.

“The project will utilise floating wind technology to produce zero-carbon electricity and will greatly help Ireland progress towards a green energy future with domestically sourced sustainable electricity delivering both environmental and economic benefits to the entire country.”

Anglo-Dutch IOC Shell made an early move in the floating wind space with the acquisition of French outfit Eolfi in 2019 and has since begun to build up an international portfolio, in regions including South Korea and Norway.

Simply Blue is developing a number of utility-scale floating wind arrays off the UK and last month tied-up with French oil giant TotalEnergies to build projects in US deepwater.

Ireland is pursuing a goal of 5GW of offshore wind by 2030, which it plans to meet with fixed-foundation turbines. But that target – a crucial part of national climate and energy plans that include a 70%-green power system – is the first step in a wider ambition for wind at sea that also includes 30GW of floating turbines.

The Global Wind Energy Council expects 16.5GW of floating turbines to be in the water by 2030, a dramatic increase from the 6.5GW it was anticipating only a year ago, with most of that growth coming in the second half of the decade when the sector, which currently has barely 100MW in place, is tipped for dramatic lift-off.

(This article first appeared in Upstream's renewable energy sister publication on 18 November, 2021.)