Executives from the Northern Ireland renewable energy development and energy technology group, Gaelectric, have met with members of the NI Enterprise Trade and Investment (ETI) Committee to highlight the contribution of the renewable energy sector in Northern Ireland to economic development and energy security.
Also discussed were barriers to the development of the local renewable energy sector.
The ETI Committee was actually in Dublin to participate in a meeting with the Joint Committee on Communications, Natural Resources and Agriculture of the Oireachtas while Gaelectric, which recently established a Technology and Innovation office in Belfast, with nine windfarm projects at various stages in Northern Ireland, was also at the meeting.
Addressing the ETI Committee, Patrick McClughan, Gaelectric’s Commercial Manager in Northern Ireland, outlined the company’s ambitious plans: “We have been greatly encouraged by the support for renewable energy from the Northern Ireland Executive, which clearly recognises the benefits associated with developing sustainable renewable energy projects in Northern Ireland.”
He said: “In the last 18 months Gaelectric has secured planning approval for four NI windfarm projects circa 81 MW. They will be located at Carn Hill, Co. Antrim (13.8 MW); Cregganconroe, Co. Tyrone (11.5 MW); Inishative, Co. Tyrone (13.8 MW) and Dunbeg, Co. Londonderry (42MW).
“The windfarms represent a total investment of £110 million and will create over 130 construction jobs during their development phase. Once complete they will generate enough power for around 50,000 local homes and families,” he said.
However, despite Gaelectric’s recent achievements, the company believes that there are still significant barriers to realising the potential of the renewable energy sector in Northern Ireland.
Mr McClughan explained: “Continued Government support, and in particular the support of the relevant Government departments within the NI Executive, is crucial in maintaining investment attractiveness.
“Issues such as building competitive markets, maintaining and enhancing investment in grid infrastructure, providing as much certainty as possible around the planning process and policies, and ensuring a continued focus on security of supply in energy policy, are fundamental to the sector’s success.
“We also need to develop grid technologies that allow us to capture, store and use this power efficiently. Gaelectric has been working on a unique energy storage project in the Larne area, which has the potential to allow greater utilisation of wind power without curtailment, whilst stabilising electricity prices and reducing emissions.”
Mr McClughan continued: “The Utility Regulator needs to do more work with the industry so that many practical issues impacting on the renewable sector are understood and addressed to help ensure the ultimate important benefits of renewable power are realised for our economy and our people,” adding that Gaelectric has a further five windfarm proposals in the NI planning process. These include sites at Crockbrack (Co. Tyrone); Corby Knowe (Co. Antrim); Cloonty (Co. Antrim); Smulgedon (Co. Londonderry); and Monnaboy (Co Londonderry).
Gaelectric is currently progressing 200 MW of wind energy projects on the island of Ireland and is leading the field of energy storage with the development of a unique Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) facility in Larne, Co. Antrim.
Due to its unique geology Larne has the potential to be at the cutting edge of Energy Storage. This Energy Storage facility will maximise the potential of renewable energy, whilst stabilising electricity prices and emissions. Development of the proposed CAES plant will involve an investment of up to £200 million over a three-year period, providing approximately 200 jobs across the construction and engineering services sectors