EU agrees €6.47 million grant for Gaelectric’s Islandmagee CAES plan

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The European Union has agreed to provide funding of up to €6.47 million for Gaelectric’s compressed air energy storage (CAES) facility near Larne.

In 2013, the company announced its intention to build a CAES facility, only the third of its kind in the world, at Carnduff on the outskirts of Larne.

However, after a recent technological breakthrough the company shifted its focus to the Islandmagee area, where the salt layer reaches greater depths of up to 1800m. The project would see the creation of underground caverns to store energy in the form of compressed air, which would then be released to generate electricity when demand is high.

Gaelectric says that the EU financing will be applied to “meet the costs of environmental impact assessment and planning activities, as well as front end engineering design for the project.”

The plan has been included as a Project of Common Interest (PCI) under the EU programme to promote transboundary energy infrastructure. The Co-ordinationg Committee for the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), an EU funding programme for infrastructure, stated: “The PCI (project) would contribute to market integration, renewable energy input and system security in both Ireland and the UK (Northern Ireland). The project is technologically innovative and has the potential to be replicated in other parts of the EU with suitable geological conditions.”

Gaelectric CEO Brendan McGrath called the funding “a further endorsement of the Larne CAES Project” and said there was “growing recognition among policy makers and energy stakeholders of the vital role that large scale energy storage must play in integrating increasing amounts of renewable energy within modern power systems.”

“The Larne CAES Project is the only storage PCI in the United Kingdom and the only CAES PCI in Europe. Larne and Northern Ireland will become the blueprint for CAES storage and the integration of renewable energy sources across the rest of the United Kingdom and Europe,” he concluded.

Gaelectric’s Commercial Manager in Northern Ireland Patrick McClughan said that a planning application for the Larne facility would be submitted “later this year.