UK opens up Northern Ireland to offshore wind and tidal

The Offshore Wind Area, off the south east coast of County Down, will be leased to a single development company to deliver up to 600 MW of generating capacity.

In addition, the Rathlin Island and Torr Head Strategic Area – a single tidal stream area of up to 200 MW capacity – will be leased to developers for delivery of multiple projects and applications will be invited for projects of a range of sizes up to 100 MW. Separate competitive tendering processes will be undertaken for the offshore wind and tidal projects, which will be run in parallel. Tenders will be assessed on bidders’ ability deliver fully operational projects by 2020 and a successful conclusion of the leasing rounds would see development rights awarded in the second half of 2012.

Northern Ireland Energy Minister, Arlene Foster, says: “The interest to date in Northern Ireland waters is very encouraging and this announcement today by The Crown Estate presents the offshore wind and tidal sectors with an excellent opportunity. Northern Ireland offers a strong but accessible offshore resource, world class research facilities at our Universities, a strong engineering tradition and an excellent port infrastructure. The development of offshore renewable energy provides not only greater energy security and diversity but significant economic and employment benefits. The recent announcement by DONG Energy at Belfast Harbour confirms that Northern Ireland has what it takes for offshore renewable energy development.”

Rob Hastings, The Crown Estate’s Marine Director, adds: “Our discussions with industry have highlighted demand for the leasing rounds, which represent another major step forward for the UK’s already world-leading offshore renewables industry. The energy infrastructure projects to be delivered will not only reap significant economic benefits for Northern Ireland, but will also further diversify the energy supply away from industrial sources to low carbon renewable energy .”