Eighty-six wind farms across Northern Ireland have now been given the go-ahead as part of our drive towards renewables – not to mention many more single turbine planning applications.
The latest wind farm to open will generate enough power to meet the electricity demands of nearly 8,000 homes a year. The £20m Carn Hill development in Newtownabbey, launched by the First and Deputy First Ministers yesterday, will use six turbines to produce 13.8MW of power.
It's the first development in Gaelectric's Northern Ireland portfolio to get up and running. The company is also planning a 15MW wind farm at Inishative near Pomeroy in Co Tyrone, which received planning permission in 2010.
To date 46 large wind farms and 40 small wind farms across Northern Ireland have been granted the go-ahead by planning authorities.
Environment Minister Alex Attwood told the Belfast Telegraph that there are enough renewable energy applications in the planning system to meet the target of generating 40% of electricity from renewables by 2020.
Yesterday he said one high-ranking EU politician had admitted to being envious of the quality of Northern Ireland's wind energy resource.
"Renewables are arguably Ireland's biggest opportunity, whether that is self sufficiency in electricity, whether it's R&D, whether it's construction. There is the capacity for us to become exporters of electricity into Britain and international grids.
"We will need to scale up our ambition. We can do that while respecting the needs of residents, landowners and our wonderful heritage.
"The location of this wind farm can be seen coming in and out of Belfast – by car, boat and plane. It sends out the message about the future – a clean and green one."
Welcoming the benefits the new development will deliver for local people, First Minister Peter Robinson said: "The Executive has placed the growth of a sustainable economy at the heart of its Programme for Government.
"We have set a target of 20% electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2015.
"Companies like Gaelectric have the capability to be at the forefront of the drive to develop energy storage technologies which will support the expansion of renewable power that we require."
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: "It is very encouraging to see confidence and investment in an area that uses our natural resource as well as the skills and know-how of local people to deliver real economic benefits and jobs.
"The establishment of a local community fund as part of this project, which will eventually deliver £255,000 investment for the direct benefit of local people, demonstrates commitment to ensuring the community has a stake in developments in their area," he said.
The energy in the wind turns two or three propeller-like blades around a rotor. The rotor is connected to the main shaft, which spins a generator to create electricity. Wind turbines are mounted on a tower to capture the most energy. At 100 feet (30 metres) or more above ground, they can take advantage of faster and less turbulent wind. A wind turbine operates automatically, self-starting when the wind reaches a certain speed, and adjusts the pitch of its rotor blades to maintain an effective operating speed regardless of the strength of the wind, and to protect itself from strong winds.