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Chinese firm buys up seven wind farms in first for Northern Ireland

by margaret canning

A Chinese company has invested in Northern Ireland for the first time with the purchase of seven wind farms from Gaelectric. The renewable energy investment arm of China General Nuclear Power Group (CGNPG) now owns a total of 14 former Gaelectric wind farms across Ireland, with an equity value of up to €350m (£299m).

The amount paid for the 14 has not been disclosed - but the deal makes CGNPG the first major Chinese firm to acquire assets in the province.

And it's the first acquisition by CGN Europe Energy (CGNEE) in Ireland's energy sector as a whole.

Irish renewable energy giant Gaelectric still owns a compressed air energy storage (CAES) project on the Islandmagee peninsula in Larne, and will continue to provide asset management and power-offtake services for the 14 wind farms.

The deal consists of 10 wind farms already up and running, and another four in development. Four of the seven Northern Ireland farms are already operating in Carn Hill in Carrickfergus, Dunbeg and Monnaboy in Londonderry, and Cloonty in Ballymoney.

Dr Wei Lu, chief executive of CGNEE, said: "CGN Group is focused on becoming a global leader in clean energy. These high quality wind energy assets will make an important contribution towards this objective for CGN Group."

Barry Gavin, chief executive of Gaelectric Holdings, said: "This agreement allows us to support the group's balance sheet, paying down debt and creating the foundations for our other operational and development interests in the renewable energy sector, including a near term development pipeline across wind, solar, biomass and energy storage, including our 330MW CAES storage project.

"Our contract with CGNEE for trading and asset management will form the basis of a continuing relationship with a very significant new player."

Richard Murphy, an expert in energy and partner at law firm Pinsent Masons, said: "We are anticipating an uplift of activity in secondary markets transactions such as this as available assets underpinned by this type of support are very attractive to institutional investors and new entrants such as CGN."

First Minister Arlene Foster is visiting China this week to discuss building closer ties. Last month officials from China's State-owned wealth management fund visited Northern Ireland for the first time. It's understood they could invest in infrastructure.

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