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Offshore wind farm plan abandoned

Last updated on 11/05/2016

In a surprise move the company aiming to build Northern Ireland’s first major offshore wind farm has cancelled its plans saying it cannot meet a key Government deadline

First Flight Wind, a consortium involving B9 Energy and giant Danish company Dong Energy, had hoped to locate turbines, capable of generating between 300 and 400 megawatts of power, in the sea near Annalong in Co Down. The output would have been enough to satisfy just over 13% of Northern Ireland’s electricity needs.

The story of why the scheme has been abandoned is complicated.

First Flight Wind had been selected two years ago by the Crown Estate, which owns the seabed off the UK, as the preferred developer for a wind farm. Since then it has been carrying out survey work to assess the site. The company says it had made significant progress in establishing the feasibility of the project. 

But it had a major target to reach which has proved too challenging

Under a new UK wide system for rewarding renewable energy output, First Flight Wind had to have the whole windfarm up and running by March 2021. 

First Flight Wind has decided it cannot meet that deadline. In a statement it has blamed its predicament on “delays to the design of the new market and renewable incentive arrangements for Northern Ireland”.

This appears to be a reference to a hold up in the introduction here of Contracts for Difference (CFDs) which are a key element of the new system for supporting renewable energy. The process to issue CFDs in Great Britain has already begun. The scheme won’t be implemented in Northern Ireland until early 2017 because the all Ireland Single Electricity Market is being reformed, a development which won’t be completed until the end of 2016. 

However it seems the problem for First Flight Wind is not so much the delay itself in launching the CFDs but the continuing lack of clarity about how precisely they will function in a Northern Ireland context. 

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