Consultation open for wind farms on the coast of Co Antrim and Co Down
North Channel Wind project director Niamh Kenny says proposals for a pair of floating wind farms in the Irish Sea off the coasts of Antrim and North Down could see Northern Ireland benefit from much improved energy security. In addition, Northern Ireland could be in a position to become a net exporter of clean electricity.
The company believes Offshore wind capacity is critical to NI’s target of reaching 80% renewable electricity by 2030 and zero net emissions by 2035. Department for Economy figures released last month show that Northern Ireland generated 51% of all electricity through renewables in 2022.
Energy security and the climate emergency are now the main drivers of the transition from imported fossil fuels to home-grown renewables, says Niamh Kenny.
“There is a collective understanding at policy level now that the climate emergency is upon us and that we must move to embrace new forms of clean electricity generation. One solution is to install and operate floating turbines in the North Channel,” says Niamh Kenny.
“But this will only be progressed by eliciting the support of all communities through consultation, ensuring environmental protection of the seabed and minimising the impact of turbines on natural habitats."
Map showing proposed area of floating wind farm in North Channel off the County Antrim coast.
“We are proposing a project on two sites off the coasts of east Antrim (NCW1) and north Down (NCW2) which could potentially generate up to 1.42GW within the current assumed parameters,” says Ms Kenny.
“NCW1 has a maximum technical capacity of circa 1GW while the second phase, NCW2, could produce up to 420MW.”
North Channel Wind is engaging positively with Northern Ireland’s Department for the Economy and Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs which has jurisdiction over marine licencing required to install turbines and cabling to shore.
The project is backed by Netherlands-based marine engineering and offshore energy specialist SBM Offshore. Ms Kenny says if it were to go ahead, the development could be a game changer for Northern Ireland.
“The two proposed sites in the North Channel could generate a combined 1.42GW, representing a significant proportion of Northern Ireland’s energy needs and could be sited in areas between 9km and 27km from the coasts of counties Antrim and Down. The power from these would be cabled to shore connecting to the grid at a location currently under consideration,” she says.
North Channel Wind’s new floating technologies significantly reduce environmental impact during installation and operation when compared to conventional turbines whose foundations are piled into the seabed.
Ms Kenny said: “We are in discussions with the Northern Ireland government, the grid operator SONI, the energy regulator UREGNI, RenewableNI and The Crown Estate. Significantly, we have completed our site characterisation and have prepared a scoping document, which will be submitted to DAERA shortly. This is the first step in applying for a marine licence to build offshore infrastructure and will be shared with all statutory and non-statutory stakeholders.”
Representatives from North Channel Wind have embarked on a series of meetings with key stakeholders over the last weeks including the fishing community, local interest groups and other marine users.
Meetings with fishing communities from Portavogie to Carnlough including Bangor and Larne, have been held and a series of three public exhibitions attracted local residents, business owners and political representatives.
According to North Channel Wind the project would create significant local supply chain opportunities including the assembly of the required steel floating devices, logistics, assembly, marine services and construction. In the longer term there is likely to be a community benefit fund linked to the project.
A public consultation opened on 31 May and will close on 28th June 2023. You can view a 'virtual consultation room' and provide your feedback at www.northchannelwind.com