Turbine at Provence Grand Large, France's first floating offshore wind farm, with floaters provided and installed by SBM Offshore

Project leaders at North Channel Wind have reached a number of significant milestones as they progress the potential for over one gigawatt of floating wind turbines in the Irish Sea, off the coasts of Antrim and north Down.

The two year bird and mammal survey has reached the halfway point, a geotechnical desk study confirms that the sites under examination are suitable for the development and a draft marine licence application has been submitted to the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs for permission to carry out marine surveys.

Project director Niamh Kenny says as much progress is being made on a number of fronts before the next stage of the development.

“Our initial and voluntary consultations indicate a high level of support for the offshore wind project,” says Ms Kenny. “This is based on a broader appreciation that the climate emergency is upon us and that we need to rapidly transition from reliance on fossil fuels and embrace the new technologies which will provide emissions free and reliable electricity.”

A series of consultations were conducted along Northern Ireland’s east coast from Carnlough to Bangor and more are expected in the coming months. Offshore and onshore scoping are under way to identify possible landing sites for cabling to shore and grid connection, as are designs for a new substation.

In addition, SBM Offshore, the company backing North Channel Wind, provided evidence to industry insiders by inviting them to witness the final stages of construction of floating wind turbines at the PGL shipyard in Marseille earlier this month.

“While progress is good there are a number of risks ahead not least the lack of an Assembly whose support we need for legislative purposes,” says Ms Kenny. “Offshore wind requires a new connection policy which cannot proceed without legislation, nor can we provide a decommissioning policy for the wind turbines without legislation.”

North Channel Wind is appealing to the Crown Estate, owners of the seabed, to make leases available as soon as possible. Ms Kenny says a leasing round which is competitive is needed so that investors can quickly determine clear pathways for their investment.

In the meantime, North Channel Wind is pursuing a timeline which would see the wind turbines begin supply to the Northern Ireland grid in 2030. This would be in time to meet the ambitious NI target of 80% of electricity from renewable sources, which was set by the Assembly in 2022Offshore wind is seen as a vital component in helping to achieve the