There could eventually be enough wind energy to power 1 million homes in Northern Ireland after two public bodies pledged to help off-shore wind projects happen.
he Department for the Economy in NI and the Crown Estate have said they are now committed to establishing offshore wind leasing in Northern Ireland.
That makes the plans of companies like North Channel Wind, which wants to install floating wind turbines in the Irish Sea next to Antrim and Down, more viable.
North Channel Wind project director Niamh Kenny said: “This is very welcome news as North Channel Wind begins consultations with coastal communities.
“We are aiming to develop clean, emissions-free electricity generation through an array of floating wind turbines between nine and 25 km off the coasts of east Antrim and north Down.
“We look forward to playing our role in reducing Northern Ireland’s reliance on imported fossil fuelled energy and meeting the new targets for renewable energy.”
The Crown Estate owns the sea bed around the UK, along with lands and holdings, so must consent to any off-shore wind projects.
The statement of intent from DfE and the Crown Estate follows a period of close collaboration between the two bodies.
Peter Russell, DfE director of electricity and security of supply, said: “Our ambition of delivering 1GW of offshore wind energy is Northern Ireland’s most ambitious energy infrastructure plan, with the potential to supply enough energy to power one million homes.
“The statement of intent is a major milestone for the Department for the Economy and the Crown Estate towards unlocking the potential of the Northern Ireland seabed and achieving the energy strategy vision of self-sufficiency in affordable renewable energy.”
Gus Jaspert, managing director marine at The Crown Estate, said: “We are highly committed to working in partnership to sustainably manage the seabed and the natural environment for its many users, and to unlocking its potential to support the transition to a net zero energy future.
“This statement of intent marks an important step forwards, laying the groundwork for building the right conditions for offshore wind leasing and realising the potential benefits for the people of Northern Ireland – local economic investment, low-carbon electricity, and a more sustainable and secure long-term energy supply.”
RenewableNI director Steven Agnew welcomed the commitment from the parties to work together. “It is invigorating for the renewables industry to see DfE and The Crown Estate laying the groundwork for building offshore wind leasing and realising these benefits for the people of NI.”
The Energy Strategy for Northern Ireland contains a commitment to diversify sources of renewables, focusing initially on offshore wind and marine renewables.
One aim is to develop an action plan to deliver 1GW of offshore wind from 2030.
In October, North Channel Wind announced it had independent environmental consultancy APEM to carry out a two-year baseline study of the coastal area involved.
The digital aerial survey will gather density, abundance and behaviour data on seabirds and marine mammals in and around the proposed North Channel Wind site.