Belfast Telegraph

Energy boss: Axeing of offshore wind project could cost Northern Ireland jobs

By Clare Weir

The boss of a renewable energy group has warned that jobs and investment will be lost to Northern Ireland following the scrapping of a major offshore wind farm project.

Speaking following the announcement that First Flight Wind is to terminate plans for an offshore wind project in the waters off the Co Down coast, Patrick McClughan, chair of the Northern Ireland Renewable Industry Group (NIRIG), said the news was "extremely disappointing" for Northern Ireland.

First Flight Wind is a consortium made up of B9 Energy, DONG Energy and RES.

DONG was also behind the £50m plant building offshore wind turbines in Belfast, transforming the port into a hub for such wind construction.

Those turbines are now operational in the Irish Sea.

"We have already seen the benefits offshore wind development can have on the supply chain with the £50m development of Belfast Harbour, and this project would have brought more jobs and investment to Northern Ireland," said Mr McClughan.

"Its cancellation shows the strong need for Northern Ireland and UK Government support and collaboration if we are to realise our renewable energy ambitions and utilise our abundant renewable energy resources."

Mr McClughan, who is also head of corporate affairs with the energy firm Gaelectric, which launched a massive wind farm in Co Londonderry last month, said that jobs in the supply chain will also suffer.

"Nearly three years ago to the day the Crown Estate launched a tender to select a developer for a 600MW offshore wind farm off the south east coast of Co Down," he said.

"A locally-led consortium won that tender and we are devastated to learn that First Flight Wind has decided to withdraw from the project. This unfortunately means the loss of current jobs and future careers alongside lost investment and local supply chain opportunity.

"The withdrawal of this project highlights the importance of retaining a strong and flexible market post-2020.

"As local developers we can't afford to speculate in a vacuum; we need a clear vision from local government and for policy to wrap support around us to deliver on that vision.

"Doing this will create even more local jobs and investment opportunity which will further the legacy of benefit that we now see from the development of renewable energy projects in Northern Ireland."

Chris Corken from Belfast Metropolitan College, which has fostered practical training links with B9 Energy, DONG and Siemens for budding wind turbine engineers, said that while the First Flight decision was disappointing, the course remains on track.

Earlier this year, the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, a body supporting commercialisation in offshore wind, wave and tidal technologies said that the economy could gain £6.7bn per year and 150,000 jobs by 2020 from the development of offshore renewable energy resources throughout the UK.

Belfast Telegraph