Local firm aims to develop NI’s first offshore wind farm

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LARNE-based B9 Energy is part of a consortium which has signed up to develop Northern Ireland’s first off-shore wind farm.

B9 Energy Offshore Developments Ltd, DONG Energy Power (UK) Ltd and Renewable Energy Systems Ltd are partners in First Flight Wind Ltd (called after Ulster inventor Harry Ferguson’s lead role in the development of aviation) which has been established specifically to develop, install and operate the proposed wind farm off the south-east coast of Co Down.

Energy Minister Arlene Foster last week welcomed the signing of agreements for the 600MW offshore wind project and a 200MW tidal development at Torr Head and Fair Head. Between them, the three ventures could produce a quarter of Northern Ireland’s electricity requirement.

To date, the firms involved have signed leases with the Crown Estate, which grants seabed lease development rights for offshore renewable projects. The schemes will now go out to public consultation and then referred for planning permission.

Mrs Foster described the signing of leases as “a major milestone for Northern Ireland”, adding: “The development of offshore renewables is an excellent opportunity for Northern Ireland in so many ways – energy security and diversity; climate change mitigation; a contribution to the Executive’s 2020 targets and the business supply chain opportunities for local companies over the next few years as these projects come on stream.”

Now the developers are to begin engaging and consulting with local stakeholders as they undertake environmental impact assessments to secure the statutory marine licences and electricity consents, at which stage Crown Estate would offer a full lease.

First Flight Wind says on its newly launched web site: “Subject to obtaining all necessary consents from the Department of Environment and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, the project could supply up to 600MW of electrical power by 2020, that could be capable of meeting up to a fifth of Northern Ireland’s electricity requirements.”

It adds that the web site, which is to be fully open on October 24, will launch a community consultation programme “designed to involve local communities from the start”.