Dong-led consortium wins 600MW Northern Ireland offshore project

UK: A consortium led by Danish-based Dong Energy was awarded the rights to develop Northern Ireland's first offshore wind project in October.

First Flight Wind, jointly owned by Dong (50%), B9 Energy (25%) and RES Offshore (25%), was awarded the rights to develop a 600MW project off Northern Ireland's south-east coast.

Big zone

The rights to the project were awarded by British marine landlord the Crown Estate. In keeping with the method used in its previous Round 3 of site allocations, the Crown Estate has leased a zone to First Flight Wind that is much larger than the area necessary to build the project, to enable the consortium to select the optimum site.

Michael Harper, director of First Flight Wind, said the consortium would now begin zone assessment work and an initial public consultation, leading to an environmental assessment application in 2015.

"During that timescale we will have identified an area for the location within the zone," added Harper. "We will also be aiming to present project options to the community in a second round of consultations in 2013."

First Flight Wind's allocated zone off the coast of County Antrim is one of two zones identified by Northern Ireland's Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETINI) in its Offshore Renewable Energy Strategic Action Plan for 2012-20, published in March.

In addition to the 600MW County Antrim zone, the DETINI report also identified the potential for a smaller 300MW zone off Northern Ireland's north coast. However, the zone's smaller size and close proximity to the Giant's Causeway Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty made the County Antrim zone the favourite to be developed first.

No more plans

A Crown Estate spokesman told Windpower Monthly that there were no plans to lease any further development zones between now and 2020.

Harper said that no decisions had been made on either the size or brand of turbines to be used on the project. However, Dong has a history of using Siemens turbines on its offshore projects, and this summer the firms signed a EUR2.9 billion agreement covering 300 of Siemens' 6MW offshore turbines that will be supplied to Dong's UK projects between 2014-17.