Belfast Telegraph

Wind farm axed: Good progress must not be wasted because of new market rules

By John Simpson

Northern Ireland has been making good progress in increasing the generation of electricity from renewable on-shore sources, predominantly from on-shore wind generation.

The development of on-shore wind energy has not been without its problems. The process of obtaining agreement for individual plants to connect to the grid and the tensions of meeting the costs of the necessary infrastructure to facilitate clusters of connections has, for some, proved frustrating.

In a contrasting tension, the financial incentives for renewable energy supported by subsidised payments through the issue and management of ROCs (renewable obligation certificates) has attracted criticism of the costs in promoting renewable energy.

Ideally, Northern Ireland is attractive as a good source of wind energy but, to be a viable proposition, there should be adequate infrastructure with suitable financial incentives to allow Northern Ireland to export surplus wind energy (when it occurs) into the GB market.

At present, the existing market structures mean that when there is excess wind energy the capacity must be curbed by constraining or restricting production which is an unwelcome limit on suppliers.

In this renewable sector, there is the hope that some of the off-shore technologies might be developed which would prove financially attractive as well as helping to meet the renewables target.

Two years ago, First Flight got the go ahead to plan to develop a large 600mw capacity off-shore wind farm, off the south-east coast of Co Down. Since then, First Flight has undertaken technical and environmental assessments and has been active in keeping the local communities (including the fishing interests) in close touch with the implementation plan.

Today's announcement says the "project can no longer be built in the timeframes required under the new market rules".

First Flight has been enigmatic about this reasoning. Has the Government department or the Regulator an explanation to offer that will help to show what is needed to make this project viable at a future date?

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