Netherlands-based marine engineering and offshore energy specialist SBM Offshore is assessing Northern Ireland’s coastal potential for a multi-million pound Irish Sea floating wind energy development. Speaking at an industry event this morning in Belfast’s Titanic Hotel, project director for the proposed 400MW North Channel Wind floating wind project Niamh Kenny said if it were to go ahead, the development could be a game changer for Northern Ireland.
“We are investigating two sites in the North Channel halfway between Northern Ireland and Scotland for a series of new generation floating wind turbines,” Ms Kenny said. “The two sites would generate a combined 400MW, representing 13% of Northern Ireland’s energy needs.”
The two potential windfarms could be sited in areas between 12km and 27km from the coasts of counties Antrim and Down. The power from these would be cabled to shore connecting to the grid at a location currently under consideration.
SBM Offshore’s floating technologies are particularly well suited to the Irish Sea for their significantly reduced environmental impact during installation and operation when compared to conventional turbines whose foundations are on the seabed.
Ms Kenny said: “We are in discussions with the Northern Ireland government, the grid operator SONI, the energy regulator UREGNI, Renewables NI and the Crown Estate. Significantly, we have completed our site characterisation and have commenced a scoping exercise in consultation with DAERA, which is the first step in applying for a marine licence to build offshore infrastructure.”
Representatives from North Channel Wind will be meeting with key stakeholders including the fishing community, local interest groups and other marine users over the coming months to gauge reactions, optimise the project and to build partnerships which will benefit the wider Northern Ireland community for many years to come.
The project would create significant local supply chain opportunities including the assembly of the required steel floating devices, logistics, assembly, marine services and construction.