Dong Energy A/S, OpenHydro Group Ltd. and Bord Gais Eireann won rights to develop renewable-energy projects off Northern Ireland as the region takes advantage of its 400-mile coastline to generate clean power.
The Crown Estate, the state landowner that manages the U.K. seabed, awarded sites for as much as 800 megawatts of projects, it said today in a statement. Among the winners, Dong was chosen to work with Renewable Energy Systems Ltd. and B9 Energy Services Ltd. on a 600-megawatt wind farm off County Down.
Northern Ireland is adding renewable-energy projects as it seeks to raise the share of clean-power use to 40 percent by 2020 from about 14 percent now. Denmark’s Dong, the world’s largest offshore-wind developer, has already agreed to locate a turbine logistics terminal in Belfast Harbor requiring a 50 million-pound ($80 million) investment from the port authority.
“Today’s announcement by the Crown Estate represents a major milestone for Northern Ireland,” Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland energy minister, said in the statement. Offshore renewables will help the province increase energy security while contributing to clean-power targets, she said.
OpenHydro, based in Dublin, and Irish utility Bord Gais will develop a 100-megawatt tidal power site at Torr Head. DEME Blue Energy and Cork-based DP Marine Energy Ltd. will deliver a 100-megawatt tidal stream park off Fair Head. Work at the project sites is slated to start in 2015, according to Northern Ireland’s Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment.
No commercial-scale wave or tidal projects are yet operating as the costly technology remains in its infancy. Siting renewable-power projects off the coast also requires grid connections to bring the electricity ashore.
Integrating offshore projects requires an “unprecedented level of grid strengthening,” needing about 1 billion pounds of investment by 2020, according to documents published by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in March.
Like England, Scotland and Wales, Northern Ireland has an incentive program known as the Northern Ireland Renewables Obligation, or NIRO, to award companies that generate electricity from clean sources.
From 2013 to 2017, Northern Ireland will offer five Renewables Obligation certificates for some marine-power technologies, with a 30-megawatt limit. After 2017, the system will be closed to new generation and replaced with long-term contracts offering a fixed price for low-carbon power in the U.K.