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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

MEA Council responds to consultation on development of offshore wind farms

Offshore wind farm

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has responded to a Department for the Economy consultation on the potential development of offshore wind farms.

The purpose of the consultation is to enable stakeholders to provide input into offshore renewable energy policy development.

A report presented to councillors at a meeting of the Environment and Economy Committee last Monday evening (4th March) said that it would consider potential legislative changes that would be required and put forward policy options for issues such as safety zones and rights of navigation.

The Energy Strategy for Northern Ireland has set out a policy for increasing renewable electricity to include offshore wind and marine renewables. It has set a target of at least 70 per cent of all renewable electricity consumption to come from “a diverse range of renewable sources by 2030”.

However, the Climate Change Act (Northern Ireland) means that the Department for the Economy must ensure that 80 per cent of electricity consumption comes from renewable sources by 2030 and places statutory power on central and local government bodies to meet targets set out in the act.

The report indicated that the development of offshore renewable energy projects in Northern Ireland would require a sea bed lease, marine licence, terrestrial planning permission, consent to construct and an electricity generation licence.

In its response, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council says that with regard to navigation, “alignment with GB’s approach is favourable as current guidance in relation to navigation rights is applicable on a UK-wide basis.

“The current scheme in the UK is tried and tested and NI’s alignment with this will facilitate a coherent UK-wide approach to navigational matters.”

It also stated that alignment with GB’s approach to maritime safety is favourable and will “facilitate a coherent UK-wide approach to safety zones via the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the UK executive agency whose purpose it is to prevent the loss of life on the coast and at sea”.

Meanwhile, North Channel Wind, a subsidiary of SBM Offshore, which is seeking to develop a prospective floating offshore wind farm, in the North Channel of the Irish Sea, has been consulting with communities in East Antrim and North Down over potential for two projects.

The company says that the proposed North Channel Wind One and North Channel Wind Two developments would “represent one of the largest energy infrastructure investments in Northern Ireland this decade and would be the largest renewable energy generators in Northern Ireland”.

The proposed North Channel Wind One would be located between nine and 15 kilometres off the east coast of County Antrim and North Channel Wind Two, between 15 to 24 kilometres off the east coast of County Antrim and north coast of County Down.

Separately, at the same meeting, councillors heard that the Carbon and Environment Report 2022/23 highlighted the local authority’s environmental performance which includes a 12 per cent reduction in carbon footprint since 2019/20. Energy consumption has reduced by seven per cent since 2019/20 and water consumption by four per cent.

Fuel consumption has reduced by six per cent.

The organisation aims to reduce fuel usage across its fleet by five per cent each year for the next three years.


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