Answer blowing in wind reveals Harbour
Belfast Harbour is set to confirm a commitment by a major European energy company to use its facilities for off-shore wind farms.
In a £50m investment by the harbour, a 50-acre site has been transformed into a terminal for the assembly of wind turbines, which will be put to use at an off-shore wind farm for ScottishPower and Danish energy giant DONG Energy.
As DONG has entered into a 10-year lease for the space in the harbour, more major contracts are expected to be fulfilled from Belfast.
Belfast Harbour will announce that work has finished on the preparation of the terminal, known as D1. It's understood up to 300 jobs will be announced as work begins at the actual wind farm at West of Duddon Sands in the Irish Sea, around 14km from England.
Patrick Keatley of the School of the Built environment at the University of Ulster, said the completion of the terminal was significant.
"For a company to base their off-shore operations here is a major step forward for the renewable energy industry.
"Belfast Harbour's proximity to the Irish Sea will have encouraged them to use Belfast, as will the Harbour's track record.
"This side of the Irish Sea was ripe for exploitation and Belfast will also have competed with the west coast of Scotland and England. Northern Ireland's engineering heritage – and the Harbour's proximity to Harland and Wolff's shipyard, which has also branched out into renewables – will have been added attractions."
DONG signed a memorandum of understanding with the Harbour last year to lease the space for 10 years. The present deal for the work on West of Duddon Sands has meant the space has now been sublet to Dong Energy and ScottishPower for two years.
Planning consultant Clyde Shanks, who is progressing a number of wind farm applications in Northern Ireland, also said: "This will mean that Belfast Harbour will be able to demonstrate its capability in the future for supporting this type of development."
No-one from DONG, Scottish Power or Belfast Harbour was available for comment.