Marine Windfarm To Be Scaled Back To Suit Fishermen and Shippers

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THE plans for the size of the windfarm that is proposed to be build off the coast of County Down have been scaled down.

First Flight Wind has been carrying out extensive stakeholder engagement as well as survey and zone assessment work in order to establish the location and design of a potential offshore wind farm off the Co. Down coast.

[caption id="attachment_35214" align="alignleft" width="398"]First Flight Wind has announced a proposal to cut back the size of  the marine windfarm off County Down. First Flight Wind has announced a proposal to cut back the size of the marine windfarm off County Down.[/caption]

As a result of this work, First Flight Wind has determined that a project of 300 – 400 MW is best able to minimise potential impacts on some existing activities including shipping and commercial fisheries.

A project of 300-400 MW could generate more than 10% of NI’s electricity requirements and will represent a capital expenditure of over £1 billion with significant economic opportunities for local companies arising as a result. A guesstimate of the number of turbines was in the region of 200-400 initially depending on their size.

Michael Harper, First Flight Wind fishing industry liaison officer, commented: “It has always been our intention to develop an offshore project that works alongside other marine users such as shipping and fishing.

“Throughout the process we are seeking to take into account the concerns of local stakeholders as we consider where to locate the project and how to design it.

“As a result we have identified a central section of the larger zone where we shall now focus our attention and we have determined that the preferred target capacity for delivery by 2020 to be 300-400 MW. Generating potentially more than 10% of Northern Ireland’s electricity requirements, this capacity would help the Executive to reach its 2020 renewable electricity target and create significant economic opportunities for local companies.

[caption id="attachment_50406" align="alignright" width="390"]The shaded green area is now where the windfarm will be located if the project goes ahead. The shaded green area is now where the windfarm will be located if the project goes ahead.[/caption]

“Our engagement with key shipping stakeholders has highlighted concerns about placing a project close to the Warrenpoint-Heysham route, which we will now seek to avoid. In addition, we recognise that coast of County Down hosts some very important Nephrops fisheries. We are therefore proposing to limit where possible, encroachment on such key Nephrops fishing grounds. These issues along with all the other issues we have identified through the recent offshore scoping consultation will be addressed fully within our environmental impact assessment.”

“We will continue to work towards further refining where we could locate a 300-400MW project and will continue to share this information with our stakeholders.”

Fishermen has expressed concerns about the size of the designated area part of which covered the Ardglass Bank, a prawn ground. This problem now seems to have been largely circumvented. Skippers in Ardglass too were concerned about access in to their port, particularly in rough S0uth Easterly weather, but the removal of the development from the top part of the zone has also freed up the movement of fishermen.

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The conclusions to the offshore scoping consultation, comprising responses to comments made during the consultation and the Opinion given by DoE and DETI, are available from:

http://www.firstflightwind.com/offshore-scoping-report

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