Consultation planned for wind farm off North Down coast

SHOULD the coast of North Down become home to an offshore wind farm?
That’s the question being asked tomorrow (Friday) during a public consultation on a proposal to build turbines in local parts of the Irish Sea.

The project is the brainchild of North Channel Wind, a green energy firm that argues floating turbines could greatly help with Northern Ireland’s need for renewable power sources.

The company has already reached out to fishing communities in the Ards and Antrim areas, and now wants to consult with local people about the idea.

Taking place in Bangor’s Hamilton Road Community Hub tomorrow afternoon and evening, the public meeting will see North Channel Wind present an exhibition laying out the firm’s vision for a potential wind firm.

Officials say the project could generate enough power to cover 82% of Northern Ireland’s total electricity consumption, and potentially save around 2.6 million tonnes of carbon emissions every year – the equivalent to taking 1.7m cars off the road.

Fiona Stevens, stakeholder manager at North Channel Wind, argues that wind farms off the coasts of Antrim and North Down could be a game-changer for the province.

“Offshore wind capacity is critical to Northern Ireland’s target of reaching 80% renewable electricity by 2030 and net-zero emissions targets,” she said this week.

“Department for Economy figures released last month show that Northern Ireland generated 51% of all electricity through renewables in 2022, so we are heading in the right direction but still have a long way to go.

“There is a collective understanding that a climate and biodiversity emergency is upon us, and that we must move to embrace new forms of clean electricity generation.

“One solution is to install and operate floating turbines in the North Channel, which we aim to progress with the support of stakeholders through consultation, and minimising the impact of the array on animals and natural habitats.”

The firm has identified two sites for floating offshore wind farms – one to the east Antrim, and one taking in both the North Down coast and the south-east coast of Antrim.

The firm is already negotiating with the Stormont, the Crown Estate and energy regulators, and has supplied scoping reports to the Department for the Environment as part of an application for a licence to build offshore infrastructure.

The scoping reports will be available at the Hamilton Road Hub consultation event, which runs from 2pm to 8pm tomorrow.