An investigation is now underway into how offshore wind and tidal energy projects can be developed off Northern Ireland’s coast, signalling a step-change in the level of renewable power to be developed by the region.
The Crown Estate has launched a discussion process with the renewable energy industry on the design and development of offshore renewable sources that is due to run until the end of May.
In the discussion paper, The Crown Estates launches an attempt to answer which areas in Northern Ireland’s waters are most attractive for development and how they would like to see development rights awarded by it.
Arlene Foster, Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) for Northern Ireland, said, ‘I am very pleased that The Crown Estate has confirmed the next steps in the development of marine renewable energy in Northern Ireland waters.
Foster said a previous Strategic Environment Assessment that the government undertook has shown there is strong potential for offshore wind and tidal stream projects, which could help to meet Northern Ireland’s 40 per cent renewable energy target by 2020.
The design discussion, The Crown Estate said, is centred around commercial offshore renewable energy projects of at least several tens of megawatts of capacity or larger. These will be used to test or demonstrate new technologies.
During 2010, The Crown Estate awarded four sites to offshore wind demonstration projects, two off England and two off Scotland. During the awards process companies were also open to bid for Northern Ireland rights but no one took up this opportunity.
It said moving forward that it plans to continue offering Northern Ireland wave and tidal demonstration projects as part of the existing competition framework but may consider restricting demonstration projects to sites other than those that appear suitable for commercial development.
It said it is also keen to work with industry groups and is in discussions with Invest Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Regional Development Agency, which has set about commissioning a study to investigate the industry needs in terms of marine energy test beds.
Dermot Grimson, head of external relations, policy and planning at The Crown Estate, said, ‘The Crown Estate is delighted to be working closely with DETI to help realise the potential in Northern Ireland waters. In inviting views on how development rights should be offered, we hope to approach site leasing in a way that maximises market interest and commitment to development and therby find a ‘win win’ for Northern Ireland and the industry.
The full documentation can be found here.
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