The first of the massive wind turbines which were assembled in Belfast have begun to generate electricity in the Irish Sea.
Blades on four of the structures are now turning and in total 42 have already been installed at the West of Duddon Sands offshore wind farm, which is being developed by Danish firm Dong Energy and Scottish Power Renewables.
Full commissioning of the project, which will be one of the largest offshore wind farms in the UK, is expected to take place later this year, and when complete, it will produce 389 megawatts (MW) of wind-powered energy – enough to power over 300,000 homes, from a total of 108 turbines.
In the biggest development in its history, Belfast Harbour is providing the first purpose-built port for the production of offshore wind farms in the UK, working on the assembly and installation of huge turbines and their foundations for Dong projects in the Irish Sea in a £50m deal.
The 450-metre quay and 50-acre building space is sited on land which was reclaimed from the sea in 1960 but was kept vacant in anticipation of a major development for over 50 years.
The 'offshore wind logistics terminal' has created hundreds of jobs in construction, assembly and the supply chain, with more than one million tonnes of stone from local quarries used.
The turbines, which have been manufactured by Siemens, are being installed using two vessels, the Pacific Orca and the Sea Installer, approximately 14km from the nearest coast on Walney Island, Cumbria.
Paul Giles from Dong Energy said that all 108 of the turbines will be shipped out from Belfast and installed in the coming months.
"Everything is going according to plans and on schedule, which is great news," he said.
"The Belfast facility is proving to be a great asset and we hope that it can be of use in future projects."
With around £25bn due to be spent on renewable energy in these waters over the next 10 years, Belfast Metropolitan College is now delivering courses on wind turbine operation, through a series of maintenance diplomas and technical certificates from City & Guilds.
The Met is one of a small number of colleges in the UK offering programmes tailored to cope with the imminent growth of wind energy.