Northern Ireland’s first offshore wind farm has become the latest renewable project to be scrapped following a change in the UK subsidy scheme.
Under the original plans, the £1bn project off the east coast of the province would have supplied almost 20 per cent of its electricity requirements.
The First Flight Wind consortium, backed by Dong Energy of Denmark and the UK’s RES, had intended to generate 600MW from the wind farms off County Down, close to the border with the Irish Republic. But it had cut the project to 300-400MW due to concerns over its impact on shipping and fisheries, before cancelling it altogether on Tuesday.
The decision follows the tightening in the summer of the UK subsidy regime for renewable energy and the subsequent collapse of a number of wind farm schemes.
Steven Agnew, Northern Ireland assembly member for the Green party, said the project had fallen victim to moves by the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change to reduce subsidies available for the next wave of offshore wind farms, combined with uncertainties created by moves to establish a more integrated energy market across the Irish border.
“More flexibility on DECC’s part regarding Northern Ireland’s particular circumstances would have been welcome,” he said.
Michael Harper, project leader, blamed delays in the tendering process for the abandonment of the scheme. He also criticised Stormont’s devolved government, which he said had failed to settle the terms on which local renewable energy schemes could compete for subsidies with other green energy proposals across the UK.
In July, Dong Energy scrapped plans to build what would have been Europe’s largest wind farm in the Irish Sea between Anglesey and the Isle of Man off the north Wales coast.
However, other projects have continued to come online. In October, Ed Davey, energy secretary, officially opened a £1.6bn wind farm off the coast of Cumbria. The West of Duddon Sands project, capable of generating 390MW, is backed by Dong Energy and Iberdrola-owned Scottish Power and employed workers in Belfast at a pre-assembly harbour built to service wind farm installation.
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