Dutch marine engineering and offshore energy company, SBM Offshore, has taken the first step towards applying for a marine licence to build two floating wind farms offshore Northern Ireland.
SBM Offshore, which has set up a company named North Channel Wind to develop and build the projects, has completed site characterisation and commenced a scoping exercise in consultation with Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), according to a press release from the project company from 9 February.
“We are investigating two sites in the North Channel halfway between Northern Ireland and Scotland for a series of new generation floating wind turbines”, North Channel Wind Project Director Niamh Kenny said. “The two sites would generate a combined 400MW, representing 13% of Northern Ireland’s energy needs”.
The wind farms are planned to be sited in areas between 12 and 27 kilometres from the coasts of counties Antrim and Down, with the best location for grid-connecting the projects still being investigated.
According to the press release from North Channel Wind, the company is currently in discussions with the Northern Ireland government, the grid operator SONI, the energy regulator UREGNI, Renewables NI and the Crown Estate
Representatives from the project company will also be meeting with key stakeholders including the fishing community, local interest groups and other marine users over the coming months to gauge reactions, optimise the project and to build partnerships which will benefit the wider Northern Ireland community for many years to come, North Channel Wind states.
North Channel Wind 1 and 2 Could Feature 20 MW Turbines
The two wind farms, named North Channel Wind 1 and North Channel Wind 2, would be built in water depths of approximately 120 metres and are expected to have an installed capacity of 300 MW and 100 MW, respectively.
Covering a site area of approximately 94 square kilometres, the 300 MW North Channel Wind 1 is planned to comprise between 15 and 20 turbines, while the 100 MW North Channel Wind 2, whose site spans an area of 38 square kilometres, would have between 5 and 7 turbines. The number of units depends on the selected turbine model, meaning that SBM Offshore could install wind turbines of an output of up to 20 MW.
The floating foundations to be used are designed by SBM Offshore, which says its lightweight steel floating tension leg platform (TLP) is easily installable with light and standard means, and that it also has a reduced seabed footprint and is simple to decommission, leading to a a reduced environmental impact and a competitive cost of energy.
The company’s Northern Irish arm states that SBM Offshore’s floating technologies are “particularly well suited to the Irish Sea for their significantly reduced environmental impact during installation and operation when compared to conventional turbines whose foundations are on the seabed”.
SBM Offshore is also developing two floating wind projects in the Celtic Sea, following an award by the Crown Estate last year.
In July 2021, the Crown Estate selected three floating offshore wind demonstration projects through its leasing opportunity for early commercial-scale floating wind projects, two of which are being developed by Floventis Energy, a joint venture between SBM Offshore and Cierco.
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