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Offshore assets

Just across the Irish Sea, construction work on the largest offshore wind farm in the world is expected to get under way next year. The gargantuan £425M scheme off Ireland's east coast, backed by Dublin-based developer Airtricity, will consist of 200 turbines with a capacity of 520MW when completed in 2007.

Providing enough power to supply 350,000 homes or 400 industrial users, meeting around 10% of the Republic of Ireland's current electricity demand, the wind farm's capacity is almost equivalent to the total for all windfarms currently connected to the UK grid. It will have three times the output of all the offshore wind farms in the world.

The wind farm is to be located on the Arklow Bank, a 24km long sandbank 7km off the coast of Wicklow in 5m-25m of water.

The giant machines will have a hub height of around 100m and a blade diameter of 120m, twice the wingspan of a Boeing 747 jet.

Site investigations have been under way this year, with boreholes drilled to 36m below the seabed to assess soil strengths for the turbines' monopiled foundations.

Detailed foundation design work is being undertaken by Danish offshore specialist Ramboll, and negotiations are well advanced with turbine suppliers.

'We intend to start construction work in June, installing 25MW of capacity next year, with the remainder following on over the next four years, ' says Airtricity Arklow project manager Pamela Walsh.

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