€8m EU funding boost for proposed power plant at Islandmagee

An artist's impression of the proposed Gaelectric CAES facility at Islandmagee. INLT 31-660-CON
An artist's impression of the proposed Gaelectric CAES facility at Islandmagee. INLT 31-660-CON

Plans to build a new green energy power station in Islandmagee have been boosted by an €8m cash injection from the European Union.

Dublin-based renewable energy company Gaelectric intends to create a compressed air energy storage (CAES) facility near Ballylumford.

The scheme – which represents an investment of £800m – would see the creation of underground caverns to store energy in the form of compressed air.

Salt deposits up to 1500m below ground have been selected as an ideal location for the caverns to be created, with a power station and two 40m high chimney stacks to be located directly above.

The project was designated as a European Project of Common Interest in 2013, and has previously been awarded EU grant support of €6.5m.

This latest award of €8.28m is to be used for the drilling of an appraisal well, and detailed studies into the design and commercial structure of the project.

Keith McGrane, head of energy storage at Gaelectric, said the additional EU financing was a “major boost to the project and a further validation of the importance and need for the project, both for NI and for wider UK and European energy markets”.

He added: “Northern Ireland and Larne will be the vanguards for safe, flexible and technologically advanced energy storage.”

Speaking of the benefits of the scheme, Gaelectric corporate affairs manager, Patrick McClughan said: “Gaelectric and our CAES project partners are committed to maximising the economic benefits for the local community and local businesses.

“These will be a mixture of direct jobs at the site and in companies supplying the site both during its construction and operational phases, and indirect benefits in the forms of additional, reliable large scale generation coming onto the system, greater energy security and more competitive energy pricing.”

The proposed facility, which is currently being considered by planners, has been the subject of some controversy. Environmentalists have raised concerns over the proposed impact of discharged brine – the waste by-product from the salt caverns – on local marine life.