Plans to develop an innovative new green energy project in the borough could create a total of 350 jobs, it has been revealed.
Irish-based renewable energy company Gaelectric wants to build a £300m compressed air energy storage (CAES) facility – only the third of its kind anywhere in the world – on the outskirts of Larne.
Compressed air would be stored deep underground in caverns specifically created for this purpose within geological salt layers. Energy is stored during periods of low enery demand (off peak), for use during later periods of higher demand.
The multi-million pound facility, also known as a power island, will be made up of a compressor (to drive the air into the stoarge caverns) and a generator (to create electricity using the enery stored as compressed air, combined with natural gas).
Gaelectric is proposing to create two of these power islands, providing a total generation capacity of 268MW.
The removal of salt from the creation of the caverns would produce a by-product known as brine, which would then be pumped into the sea through a pipeline.
The proposed project is to be located at Carnduff, 1.5km south of the town. Larne is the only place on the island of Ireland with salt deposits suitable to create CAES caverns, and detailed seismic data indicates that Carnduff has salt at just the right depth and thickness.
Drilling and geological surveys are currently underway to assess the potential for creating these caverns, and if there is a satisfactory outcome, Gaelectric intends to submit its planning application by mid-2014.
Gaelectric commercial manager, Patrick McClughan said: “This is a unique project that will put NI at the forefront of innovation in energy storage using compressed air stored within salt layers, which are a feature of this part of Antrim.
“Up to 300 jobs will be created during the construction phase, which will take around two years to complete. Once commissioned the facility will provide full time employment opportunities to between 40 to 50 people.
“The local economy will also benefit from other services to the facility including accommodation, and locally sourced construction and professional services.”