SUCH is the level of interest in a Cork man’s latest venture that he is comparing it to the gold rush in California in the latter half of the 19th century, which attracted hundreds of thousands of prospectors.
Pearse Flynn, who describes himself as a serial entrepreneur, has invested €10 million of his own money into a business that will service the future needs of offshore wind farms. His new company, Green Rebel Marine, will create 80 new jobs.
Pearse has also acquired Crosshaven Boatyard, a nine acre site that will serve as a base for the operation to survey, equip and service a network of planned wind farms along the Irish coast. The boatyard will continue its normal operations.
According to this businessman, Cork is equipped to be the centre of offshore wind farms in this country and there is potential for it to be a big industry, generating power in an environmentally friendly way.
Pearse, currently based in Scotland, is from Ballycotton in County Cork and has built a house there to which he’ll move when the pandemic travel restrictions are lifted. He has always had an interest in marine matters.
“You don’t grow up in Ballycotton without having an interest in the sea. My family on my mother’s side were into the fishing business. It was a summer tradition that you worked on fishing boats during the holidays. It would soften your cough in terms of what hard work really is.”
A former pupil of Midleton CBS who studied instrument physics at CIT, Pearse says he had no idea what he wanted to do career-wise. He fell into the computer industry.
“My career went from there,” he said.
He worked in Texas for Compaq Computers “which was one of the fastest growing companies at the time, passing out IBM. I was in the corporate world and I did really well there.”
Pearse wanted to return to Europe so he started working for a networking company, Newbridge Networks, of which he became president.
He then spent time working with Alcatel in Paris which bought Newbridge Networks.
“I had a massive job with 72,000 people working under me. It wasn’t stressful in the least but it was very political. I was in a big, insulated corporate environment. I thought I knew everything. I found out later that wasn’t the case. I couldn’t stand the politics in the job.
“So I went away and started doing my own thing. That was an awakening that you wouldn’t believe. That’s why I have so much regard for people who run their own businesses. I don’t care whether it’s a corner shop or having thousands of people working for you. It’s always stressful,” he said.
Pearse has had about eight companies, five of which are active.
“I built them up and sold them on. I’ve done very well. I bought software businesses, financial service businesses and customer contact businesses. I like running them myself. Then, when I understand how they work, I get somebody else to run them,” he added.
Plans for offshore wind farms are at an advanced stage, says Pearse, with a number of potential fixed and floating operators examining sites along the coast, from Dundalk in Co Louth to the coast of Cork and beyond. Their construction will not only increase Ireland’s ability to produce renewable energy, it will also create an entire new sector dedicated to servicing their operation.
Pearse says that “the cost of constructing these offshore, floating wind farms is coming down and there is a rush amongst operators to see who will be first to the market. Unlike the challenges posed by such projects on land, these sea-based sites will be largely away from public view. Ireland has the potential to become a net exporter of electricity within a decade, as opposed to relying on imported fossil fuels. Green Rebel Marine marries the best of the blue and green economies. We will create and sustain Irish jobs and become a global leader in this field.”
The likes of Shell, BP and the equivalents of the ESB will invest in this sector.
Pearse said: “Ireland has a huge chance here because we have loads of wind. At the moment, we depend on fuel from the Middle East. Now we have the chance to generate our own energy. It’s a fantastic opportunity.”
Pearse adds that having done his research he believes that “Cork is ideally placed for this sector. If Cork doesn’t become the hub of offshore wind farms, we should all be shot.
“It has the second largest natural harbour in the world. It has deep water and it has the infrastructure. That’s why I bought Crosshaven Boatyard. It will be our hub. We have already purchased three ships and we’re about to finish purchasing an airplane which will be based in Cork. These are all to provide services for the industry. If you’re going to build an offshore wind farm, you have to do a 24 months survey on birds and mammals that are 40kms out. It would be done by plane. I’m investing in a very sophisticated air plane with high definition cameras. Ultimately, I see us employing hundreds of people.”
While not a big fan of Boris Johnson, Pearse remarks that the British PM made an interesting comment.
“He said that the UK is going to turn into Saudi Arabia, because of the use of wind farms generating power.”
Ireland, says Pearse, “should be self-sufficient in power. I think there’s an opportunity for Ireland to become the battery of Europe whereby we can bring in the power and ultimately, export it.”
On the east coast, offshore wind farms “are going to be fixed to the bottom because the water is shallow,” he added.
“If you can imagine a big mast, it is going to be drilled into the sea bed. On the south coast, there will be floating wind farms, 40kms out. They’ll be as high as the Eiffel Tower.”
Ireland plans to have five gig-watts of naturally generated power by 2030. And Pearse is on track to serve the industry around offshore wind farms.
“We’re building Green Rebel Marine to do the survey work and design work —all the development work that will be going on.”
It sounds like a great business idea.
“It’s exciting. We’ve bought state-of-the-art boats and I’ve also bought a fishery liaison which is basically a consultancy service to work with developers and to work with the fishing industry. That’s important to me because the fishing community has to be brought along on this journey.
“If they’re not brought along, it would become a problem. If it’s done properly, the fishing industry will see the value of it and will co-exist with it.
“And there will be job opportunities for their children and grandchildren.”
Pearse is hiring people “for high quality jobs, from pilots to mariners to surveyors. We’ve hired two marine academics, guys that know the sea bed and the coast and the environment.”
Pearse will also be working with the National Maritime College of Ireland in Ringaskiddy.
He says that he has been “taken aback by the number of people who’ve come to try and connect with me because it’s an industry they want to get into.”
It’s a clean industry, Pearse says. Has he always been environmentally aware?
“I’d be telling a lie if I said I always was. I’ve driven some bloody big gas guzzling cars. But now we’re all becoming aware of the environment.
“I’m the same as everybody else. I wouldn’t put myself up there as some sort of eco-warrior but we’re all saying now that we really need to get our act together.”