Wind Energy – SBM
SBM Offshore wants to develop two offshore floating wind farms just a few miles off the Belfast coastline in what is potentially a £3 billion investment.
SBM Offshore says the project – which involves building up to 25 massive turbines feeding into either the Kilroot or Ballylumford energy plants – would also create 700 jobs and power 500,000 homes in the north by the end of this decade.
But while its early-stage plans have been met with a generally favourable response from Stormont’s departments of agriculture, finance and economy, they are unlikely to progress without a green light from the Crown Estate, which owns the UK’s seabed.
Last year the Crown Estate ran its first auction in a decade for permits to construct offshore wind farms off the UK coastline, and it attracted frenzied interest from domestic and international bidders.
SBM Offshore has been assessing Northern Ireland’s coastal potential for around a year, and has already ‘risked’ £500,000 to commission environmental studies on both the Irish and Scottish coastlines.
And the company insists that Northern Ireland’s ambition to reduced emissions by 80 percent by 2050 “just won’t be possible without the provision of offshore energy”.
“Our two sites would generate a combined 400 megawatts, representing 13 percent of Northern Ireland’s total energy needs and up to 57 percent of domestic requirement,” said Niamh Kenny, project director with North Channel Wind, which is SBM’s subsidiary in Ireland.
She added: “We believe Northern Ireland will be one of the cheapest places to build floating offshore wind anywhere in the British Isles and hopefully that will be eventually reflected in the overall cost of electricity here.”