The Crown Estate, which manages the seabed around the UK, said that from April 1 it will begin conversations with potential developers on the opportunity of winning a share in offshore wind and tidal energy projects, which have a potential combined generation capacity of more than 1 gigawatt GW. Developers are being asked to put forward the best possible sites for the projects. The leasing process is expected to commence early next year.
"The strategic environmental assessment that we undertook has shown there is strong potential for offshore wind and tidal stream projects, which could bring significant economic benefits to Northern Ireland, as well as help meet our 40 target for renewable energy by 2020," said Arlene Foster, who is Northern Ireland's Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment. "In pursuing these goals, we look forward to enhancing our already excellent relationship with the Crown Estate."
A strategic environmental assessment performed in Northern Ireland last year found that there is the potential to build 600 to 900 MW of offshore wind projects, and up to 300 MW of tidal energy projects by 2020.
Northern Ireland's green energy credentials received a significant boost last month, when energy giant Dong Energy A/S announced its interest in setting up a turbine manufacturing operating in Belfast. The company has signed a memorandum of understating with Belfast Harbour that could see it establish a manufacturing plant capable of building thousands of wind turbines.
Dong, like other turbine manufacturers, is getting ready to capitalize on the next round of offshore windfarm building in the UK, which will see more than 25 GW of new offshore power added in the coming decade.
"Market interest in projects off Northern Ireland is growing, and The Crown Estate is delighted to be working closely with DETI to help realize the potential," said Dermot Grimson, who is the head of external relations, marine policy and planning at The Crown Estate. "In inviting views on how development rights should be offered, we hope to approach site leasing in a way that maximizes market interest and commitment to development, and thereby find a 'win-win' for the industry and Northern Ireland."
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