Belfast Telegraph

Sale of majority stake in Northern Ireland wind farms to Chinese group close to completion

By John Mulligan

The sale of a majority stake in 200 megawatts of wind power assets owned by Gaelectric to China General Nuclear Power is expected to complete within about two weeks, it's understood.

The sales process has been under way since the beginning of this year when Gaelectric sought out expressions of interest for either a stake in, or a complete acquisition of, all its operational wind farms.

Gaelectric has a portfolio of 23 operational and under-construction wind farms in Ireland.

That includes four in Northern Ireland.

Proceeds from the sale could be used to further develop Galectric's other renewable energy assets and projects.

Last year Gaelectric signed an agreement with Irish firm Oriel to develop a 15MW offshore windfarm in the Irish Sea at a cost of €80m (£68m).

That's part of a much bigger planned project called the North Irish Sea Array, which could eventually extend to being a huge 870 megawatt wind farm.

Gaelectric is also developing a major energy storage project in Larne, Co Antrim.

The project involves the creation of two vast storage caverns more than 1.4km beneath the Antrim coast.

The scheme, which uses compressed air, will be able to generate up to 330MW of power for up to six hours, and will create demand for 200MW of power during its compression cycle.

Last week Gaelectric opened a 9.2 megawatt wind farm in Co Antrim - its fourth operational asset in Northern Ireland.

Last month Gaelectric selected China General Nuclear Power as its preferred bidder to take a majority stake in its wind farm assets.

It's thought that Gaelectric will continue to be the operator of the assets.

The Chinese firm saw off rival bidders including US investment firm I-Squared Capital, which acquired Northern Ireland-based power firm Viridian, parent company of Power NI, for €1bn (£0.8bn) in April.

Gaelectric's chief executive is Barry Gavin. He succeeded co-founder Brendan McGrath in the post last September. Existing shareholders in Gaelectric include US private equity giant Lone Star.

It acquired an 8% stake after the American firm took on debts owed by Gaelectric's co-founder, Eamonn McGrath to IBRC.

Gaelectric has a target of having 400 megawatts of operational wind farms by 2017, including the ones in which the Chinese firm is talking a stake.

Belfast Telegraph