After engaging with the industry last year, the Crown Estate is launching a new round of offshore leases for the development of up to 800 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind and tidal power projects in two territories of Northern Ireland waters. The first area, off the southeast coast of County Down, will be leased to a single company to develop up to 600 MW of generating capacity. Sites in the Rathlin Island and Torr Head Strategic Area will be leased to multiple developers for projects in a range of sizes up to 100 MW, for a total of 200 MW capacity.
Both areas have already undergone strategic environmental assessments of potential locations for development by the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment (DETI). Developers for both areas will be selected through separate competitive bidding processes, and project developers must demonstrate the ability to have projects fully operational by 2020. Development rights are expected to be awarded in the second half of 2012.
Last year, the Crown Estate awarded leases for five offshore wind farms in Scottish waters. The new focus on Northern Ireland waters is intended to help the country reach its target of supplying 40 percent its electricity consumption from renewable energy sources by 2020 – a goal it shares with its island neighbor, the Republic of Ireland. In order to reach their joint goal, the state-owned grid operator EirGrid in Dublin has forecast that Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will need to reach a combined capacity of 5.1 gigawatts (GW) of wind energy, most of it offshore.