‘CAES project will create a beacon for innovation’

I write in response to the article that appeared in your paper on Thursday, January 23, 2014, ‘Larne would be NI’s ‘most blighted town’, which referred to Gaelectric Energy Storage’s proposal for a Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) facility to the south of Larne.

It leads with an assumption that this project is either directly associated with specific wind energy developments near Larne or is being developed solely for wind generation. Both of these assumptions are incorrect.

The CAES proposal will provide grid-level energy storage which can be drawn upon instantly to provide up to 268 MW of power for consumers in Northern Ireland. The facility will utilise excess generation capacity available on the grid, from wind and other non-renewable generation, to optimise the value of electricity on the grid and deliver benefits such as stabilisation of wholesale electricity costs, reductions in emissions and help ensure a more efficient use of the transmission network.

We are currently working on the design for the facility and consulting with the local community on the decisions we need to make. Our design must satisfy the statutory decision makers who will not permit any proposal that creates a negative impact on the environment or the community.

We welcome the level of interest and engagement we have had with the local community in Larne and indeed their public representatives, including Sammy Wilson MLA who has been very generous to us with his time and interest in the project. We have briefed members of Larne Borough Council, the Northern Ireland Executive, its Assembly members and we value their inputs as we consider and refine the design for the project.

We have received cross-party encouragement and support for the project due to the solutions CAES technology, located at Larne, will provide for NI. The project has also been designated as a European Project of Common Interest for Trans-boundary Energy Infrastructure, which recognises the important contribution it will make to an efficient energy system on a European regional scale.

Rather than creating a ‘blighted town’, this CAES project will contribute locally and create a beacon for innovation and excellence in electrical engineering and energy storage on a global stage.

If we are successful in securing the necessary approvals, this CAES project will see Larne position itself once again at the forefront of engineering and demonstrate how Larne’s unique resources can be harnessed to provide power, skills, investment and local jobs.

A total investment of over £300 million will be required to deliver the project. As a consequence, the electricity system in NI will be significantly enhanced and 300 full and part-time jobs will be creating during its construction and between 30 and 50 jobs during operations.

Gaelectric supports communities where our projects are located. We establish independently-administered community funds for all our projects to support local initiatives that in turn support these communities.

In Larne, a community benefit fund will be created to help ensure that the local community also benefits directly from this important project. Our next community consultation events will take place on the 11th and 12th March; further details will be available closer to the time.

In conclusion, we take great pride in the progress we have achieved to date in NI across our portfolio and we are grateful for all support received.

These successes would not have been possible without the support of communities where our projects are located. We fundamentally believe that engaging and informing communities creates better projects that leave a legacy of jobs, improvements to environmental standards, and significant benefits to host communities.

Brendan McGrath

CEO Gaelectric Holdings