The Offshore Leasing Round, under which areas of seabed can be made available for the development of marine renewable energy, was announced today at a joint Crown Estate and Invest Northern Ireland offshore supply chain event in Belfast.
The event is one of in a series of seven across the UK, emphasising the importance of the growing offshore renewable market in creating business and job opportunities.
Junior Minister Robin Newton today welcomed The Crown Estate launch of the Northern Ireland Offshore Leasing Round, saying, “Today marks a major milestone in the development of marine renewable energy in Northern Ireland waters. There are vast amounts of untapped energy in the seas around us, and I welcome The Crown Estate’s confirmation of the next steps in the development of Northern Ireland’s marine energy potential.
“The Strategic Environment Assessment of our offshore plan has shown there is strong potential for offshore wind and tidal stream projects, potentially up to 1.2GW. This would bring significant economic benefits to Northern Ireland, as well as help meet our 40pc target for renewable electricity by 2020.”
The Crown Estate revealed that from 1 April, 2011, there will be a design consultation to seek views on how areas of the seabed could be made available for renewable energy projects. This will help shape offshore wind and tidal leasing rounds in September 2011, with the potential for development rights to be awarded as soon as spring 2012.
Speaking about the timetable for the Leasing Round, Dermot Grimson, head of external relations, Marine Policy and Planning at The Crown Estate, said, "Market interest in projects off Northern Ireland is growing and at The Crown Estate we are delighted to be working closely with DETI to help realise the potential in Northern Ireland waters. In inviting views on how development rights should be offered, we hope to approach site leasing in a way that maximises market interest and commitment to development and thereby find a ‘win-win’ for the industry and Northern Ireland."
Commenting on the opportunities that exist for the local supply chain, Energy Minister Arlene Foster, said: “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.
“Invest NI is already working in partnership with a range of local companies to improve their competitive advantage, and ability to gain new business in the renewables sector. Today’s announcement presents a further opportunity for the local supply chain and Invest NI will continue to work with local businesses to help them engage with the industry and to create jobs, as well as attracting inward investment."