Belfast Telegraph

Antrim coastal scheme could power 75,000 homes

By Clare Weir

One of the projects planned for the sea off the Co Antrim coast could generate enough electricity to power more than 75,000 homes in Northern Ireland.

In October 2012 Tidal Ventures, a joint project between OpenHydro and Bord Gais, was awarded a lease by the Crown Estate to develop a 100MW development off Torr Head in north Co Antrim.

The two companies set up Tidal Ventures in 2010 with the aim of pioneering tidal farms.

Giving an update at the Wave and Tidal conference in Belfast, Sue Barr, external affairs manager with OpenHydro, said the project remained on course and it was expected the tidal farm would be built by 2020 with construction starting in 2017.

OpenHydro designs and manufactures marine turbines for generating renewable energy from tidal streams. The company has a project portfolio spanning Ireland, the US, Canada, France, Scotland and the Channel Islands.

The company said that while the number of turbines will be dependent on the results of on-going surveys, it is possible for a single turbine to deliver up to 2 MW of power – depending on the strength of water flow.

Environmental impact assessments – including the effect a farm could have on flora, fauna, fishing and marine traffic – are being carried out at the site, which is just along the coast from the Fair Head Tidal Energy Park planned by DP Energy.

Ms Barr said that surveys already completed showed the site will provide strong tidal flow.

"There are very strong currents in this area, it has stronger currents than anywhere else on the island of Ireland, the north coast of Ireland has fantastic resources." she said.

She said that, while the plan was progressing as normal, there were barriers to overcome, including grid connectivity – which was a key concern identified at the annual Northern Ireland Renewables Industry Group conference earlier this month.

"Grid connection has been identified as a key risk to project timelines," Ms Barr said.

The grid was built in the 1960s to transport electricity from three power stations to homes and businesses, but was not designed to cope with power coming back in the opposite direction, causing problems for renewable energy producers.

While there is an array of savings and subsidies available for renewable energy production, smaller projects are finding it difficult to take advantage.

Ms Barr said that consulting with the communities who live close to tidal farms was very important.

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