Partners Eclipse Energy and Rolls-Royce Power Ventures have been granted licences by the UK government to produce gas in the Irish Sea at two sites off Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria. They plan to operate an offshore gas-burning power plant at one of the sites -- some seven kilometres off the coast -- in conjunction with a wind farm and export the electricity ashore by cable. "We will be able to fulfil our contracts on a guaranteed basis under the NETA arrangements," explains Peter Sills from Eclipse Energy, a new company whose directors have backgrounds in oil and gas.
The wind turbines will help improve the economics of the small gas field, he says. "The amount of gas we have on that site would last between three and six years at a normal rate of extraction. Using it with an adjacent wind farm will allow us to conserve the gas for longer." As the reserves are depleted, more wind turbines will be added. When the gas runs out, the partners will remove the gas generating facility to another field. "This would leave us with a green legacy for a wind farm on the site, already financed by the initial development," says Sills.
Eclipse and Rolls-Royce need formal planning consents from government to build the plant, but first they plan to start national and local consultations. The innovative approach, one of the world's first cogeneration plant using wind, is similar to that being taken by Navitas Energy in the United States, which is fulfilling a utility contract with a mix of dispersed small gas plant and wind power (Windpower Monthly, May 2000).