The RPS Group has been awarded the contract to examine the feasibility of building an off-shore grid in the Irish Sea.
The Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment is working with its government counterparts in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland on a technical feasibility study for a regional off-shore marine electricity grid system. This could link off-shore renewable energy sites to exploit wind, wave and tidal resources in the Irish Sea and Atlantic coastal areas.
The work is seen as a key part in developing thinking on the EU’s concept of a European-wide Super Grid for electricity interconnection. The two-year study is due to finish by the end of 2011.
Energy Minister Arlene Foster said: “The appointment of RPS to undertake this innovative study demonstrates the commitment that Northern Ireland attaches to working at home and with its neighbours to fully develop the potential for renewable energy in and around our shores.
“This project will inform the partners’ decisions as well as those of the wider energy sector on the costs and benefits of future investment in off-shore renewables infrastructure.
“The study will make an important contribution to the European Union’s proposal for a European Super Grid for electricity to enhance security of supply. I welcome the contribution to funding this £1.6million project through the EU’s INTERREG Cross Border Programme.”
Scotland’s Energy Minister Jim Mather said: “The ISLES study will allow us to explore issues around an offshore transmission network in the Irish Sea and help make the case for commercial investment. This co-operation with Northern Ireland and Ireland is another step in our approach to strategic energy issues. Indeed our close working relationship with the Government of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Executive is also being further deepened through the grid work stream of the British Irish Council, and we are developing joint working in a number of other areas.”
Ireland’s Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Eamon Ryan said: “I very much welcome the commencement of this study which will help pave the way for the development of our very significant offshore natural resources. Ireland has a sea area that is around 10 times the size of its land area. Our countries location at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean ensures we share some of the best wind and wave resources in Europe. By working in partnership with each other, we can utilise these resources to generate carbon free renewable electricity to meet our future energy requirements.”