THE operators who have been granted licence for renewable energy projects off the north Antri mcoast say they are “aware” of the natural beauty fo the coastline.
Licences have been granted for three renewable energy projects off the coast of Northern Ireland.
The Crown Estate has signed deals with First Flight Wind Ltd, Tidal Ventures and DP Marine Energy Ltd of Ireland, and DEME, of Belgium.
The deals will see the creation of two 100MW tidal turbines (pictured right) off Fair Head and Torr Head.
Work on the projects is expected to start from 2016.
The next stage will involve the successful developers meeting local stakeholders and undertaking environmental assessments of their projects to secure marine licences and electricity consents before a full lease is granted.
Offshore wind is seen as crucial for Northern Ireland to reach its ambitious targets for renewable energy.
The Northern Ireland Executive requires 40% of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020. This offshore wind project could be capable of meeting up to a fifth of Northern Ireland’s 2020 electricity requirements.
Bord Gáis, parent company of natural gas provider firmus energy, and its tidal energy partner, OpenHydro were awarded exclusive rights to develop a 100MW tidal energy farm off Torr Head.
The project is expected to be completed by the year 2020.
The award was made by The Crown Estate to Tidal Ventures Ltd, established in 2010 as a joint venture between the two energy companies. This award forms part of Northern Ireland’s Offshore Renewable Energy Strategic Action Plan.
Commenting on the announcement, James Ives, Chief Executive of OpenHydro, said: “We are delighted to be awarded the lease to develop this tidal energy farm. We are very aware of the natural beauty of this coastline and of all the many fishing, wildlife and recreational activities that take place there.
“We also know that this is an important area to all those who live on Rathlin Island and in Ballycastle and the surrounding areas.”
Dave Kirwan, Managing Director, Bord Gáis Energy, said: “This project is a milestone for the development of tidal resources and marks our ongoing commitment to renewable assets.
“Although deployment of turbines will not start for another few years, we hope that this substantial investment will enable us to secure hundreds of jobs in Northern Ireland.”
One of Tidal Venture’s first priorities will be to meet with the elected representatives, key stakeholders, interest and residents groups to show how these turbines will work and roughly where they will be placed to generate electricity silently, with no visibility from the shore and no cost to the environment.
The operators say the project will have the capacity to generate 100 MW of energy - enough to power more than 75,000 homes in Northern Ireland and the proven experience of the two energy partners was a key factor in securing this award.
Ballycastle SDLP Councillor Dónal Cunningham has welcomed the announcement that successful bidders for the tidal energy projects have been announced.
“These infrastructure projects present a great opportunity for the local economy and community,” he said. “I will be requesting that Moyle Council and, in particular, our economic development department seek early engagement with the successful companies as we are keen to ensure that Moyle fully benefits from the project. “It is important that Council has its act together as we need to achieve a real economic stimulator in terms of jobs and economic input rather than any short term goodwill gesture form these companies. “The development of offshore renewable energy provides not only greater energy security and diversity but significant economic and employment and educational benefits.”