Belfast Telegraph

Seabed leasing opportunities in marine renewable energy drive

More areas of seabed around Northern Ireland will be made available for the development of marine renewable energy, it has been announced.

The Crown Estate and Invest Northern Ireland have announced a leasing event, which is one in a series of seven across the UK, saying it is an opportunity to highlight to Northern Ireland business the new opportunities from the expanding green energy market in the UK and beyond.

The Crown Estate confirmed that from April 1 there will be a design consultation to seek views on how areas of the seabed could be made available for renewable energy projects.

Welcoming the announcement, Energy Minister Arlene Foster said that over the next 20 years, it is expected that 11,000 new offshore wind turbines will be built in the UK and the Republic of Ireland's territorial waters.

"With almost a quarter of the planned turbines located within 150 nautical miles of Belfast, the Harbour area is well placed to become a major offshore logistics centre in the rapidly expanding offshore wind sector," she said.

Junior Minister Robin Newton added: "There are vast amounts of untapped energy in the seas."

"There is strong potential for offshore wind and tidal stream projects to bring significant economic benefits as well as help meet our 40% target for renewable electricity by 2020."

Last month Belfast Harbour and Danish firm DONG Energy signed a letter of intent to use Belfast Harbour as a base for constructing thousands of giant turbines for offshore wind farms.

Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland Marine Task Force urged government and industry to "work with nature" to develop offshore wind and tidal energy.