N. Ireland Eyes Trifecta Of Offshore Energy Sources

With 1.8 million people, Northern Ireland’s population is about midway between Philadelphia’s (1.5 million) and Houston’s (2.1 million). In a place that size, 800 megawatts of power – the amount that could flow from three offshore projects granted site leases this week by the Crown Estate – would go a long way toward meeting the U.K. province’s goal of 40 percent renewable electricity by 2020.

More than halfway, actually.

northern ireland offshore wind

Horns Rev wind farm, North Sea (image via Dong Energy)

The big piece here is a 600 MW offshore wind array. Dong Energy of Denmark, a familiar offshore wind name, has partnered with a Northern Ireland company to pursue this project off the southeast coast.

While offshore wind has been popping up in U.K. waters with great regularity this would be Northern Ireland’s first one. At 600 MW, they aren’t starting small. (For comparison’s sake, the big project inching forward in the U.S., Cape Wind, would be 420 MW.)

So Northern Ireland Energy Minister Arlene Foster wasn’t exaggerating when she called it “a major milestone for Northern Ireland” and “an excellent opportunity … in so many ways — energy security and diversity; climate change mitigation; a contribution to the Executive’s 2020 targets and the business supply chain opportunities for local companies over the next few years as these projects come on stream.”

Then there were the other two projects in the Crown Estate leasing; smaller, yes, but perhaps more intriguing, these.

See page 2 for the tidal power project plans…

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.