Communities along the coast of east Antrim and North Down will have the opportunity to learn about proposals for the installation of floating wind turbines in the Irish sea, during local exhibitions on May 31 in Carnlough, June 1 in the Gobbins Centre, Islandmagee and June 2 in Bangor.
Meetings with fishing communities in Portavogie, Bangor and Larne have already taken place.
North Channel Wind says it is engaging with local communities with a view to sharing information and gathering feedback.
Fiona Stevens, stakeholder manager at North Channel Wind says the wind farms off the coasts of Antrim and North Down could be a game changer for Northern Ireland, bringing much improved energy security and the potential for Northern Ireland to become a net exporter of clean electricity.
“Offshore wind capacity is critical to NI’s target of reaching 80% renewable electricity by 2030 and zero net emissions targets,” said Mrs Stevens. “Department for Economy figures released last month show that Northern Ireland generated 51% of all electricity through renewables in 2022, so we are heading in the right direction, but still have a long way to go.”
The North Channel Wind project has the potential to generate electricity equivalent to around 82% of NI’s total electricity consumption, based on 2022 figures. The project could potentially save over 2.6 million tonnes of carbon emissions every year compared to the equivalent generation by non-renewables, the equivalent to taking over 1.7 million cars off the road.
Mrs Stevens continued: “There is a collective understanding at policy level that the climate and biodiversity emergency is upon us and that we must move to embrace new forms of clean electricity generation. One solution is to install and operate floating turbines in the North Channel, which we aim to progress with the support of stakeholders through consultation and minimising the impact of the array on animals and natural habitats.
“We are proposing wind farms on two sites: North Channel Wind 1 is off the coast of east Antrim, and North Channel Wind 2 is off the south-east coast of Antrim and the north east coast of County Down.”
North Channel Wind is engaging with Northern Ireland’s Department for the Economy, Department for Infrastructure and the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in relation to the consents required.
The project is backed marine engineering and offshore energy specialist SBM Offshore. The project would create significant local supply chain opportunities including the assembly of the required steel floating devices, logistics, assembly, marine services and construction. In the longer term there is likely to be a community benefit fund linked to the project.
Mrs Stevens added: “We are in discussions with the Northern Ireland government, the grid operator SONI, the energy regulator UREGNI and The Crown Estate. Significantly, we have completed our site characterisation and submitted a scoping document to DAERA in early May. This is the first step in applying for a marine licence to build offshore infrastructure. The scoping report will be available as part of the public consultation and we welcome feedback.”
This series of community consultations is planned as follows:
2pm – 8pm, 31 May: Glenlough Community Centre, Carnlough
2pm – 8pm, 1 June: The Gobbins Visitor Centre, Islandmagee
2pm – 8pm, 2 June: Hamilton Road Community Hub, Bangor