The Crown Estate is seeking expressions of interest from private sector developers for offshore wind and tidal stream Leasing Rounds in Northern Ireland waters. An Offshore Wind Area off the east coast to deliver up to 600MW of generating capacity and a Tidal stream area off the north east coast around Rathlin of up to 200MW.
Arlene Foster said: “Today’s announcement by The Crown Estate opens up new Leasing Rounds in Northern Ireland waters. This marks a major step forward in the growth of our offshore renewable energy industry. This follows on from discussions with the sector to identify the best way to release our offshore resources to optimise market interest and secure sustainable renewable and economic benefits for Northern Ireland.
“Over the last six months there has been a high level of activity to address a number of key issues identified in our offshore plans to facilitate the Leasing Rounds. In this regard, I welcome the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the United Kingdom and Irish Government which provides clarity in relation to offshore renewable energy marine jurisdictional issues. The seas around the coast of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland offer not just a significant renewable resource but also significant economic benefits which we are both keen to capture.”
Rob Hastings, The Crown Estate’s Marine Director said: “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 .”
This next stage involves the issue of a pre-qualification questionnaire leading to invitations to tender. Tenders would then be assessed in early 2012 with development rights being granted to successful companies from as early as summer 2012.
The Minister concluded: “I see offshore renewables making a key contribution to our future energy mix to meet the Executive’s challenging 40% renewable electricity target by 2020.
“The interest to date in Northern Ireland waters is very encouraging and this announcement today presents the offshore wind and tidal stream 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.”