Double investment boost for green energy

Existing wind farm development at Altahullion near Dungiven
Existing wind farm development at Altahullion near Dungiven

RENEWABLE energy in the Province received a double boost yesterday following major anouncements by two leading players in the wind energy sector.

Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), owners of Airtricity, used the Irish Wind Energy Association’s Autumn Conference in Kerry to announce its purchase of the Altahullion 3 wind farm project in Co Londonderry from RES UK & Ireland Ltd.

At the same time Irish renewable energy development and energy storage group Gaelectric confirmed it had secured planning approval for two on-shore wind energy projects not far from Altahullion at Smulgedon, north east of Dungiven and at Monnaboy on Loughtermore Mountain.

The SSE project, to be called Glenconway 2, was granted planning consent in 2010 and will be a 12-turbine, 27.6MW (megawatt) extension to SSE’s 18MW Glenconway wind farm currently under construction.

When completed it will form part of SSE’s wider Slieve Kirk wind farm cluster in Londonderry and will total 73.6MW.

The SSE Slieve Kirk wind farm cluster will be the largest renewable generating site in Northern Ireland and will generate enough green energy to power 60,000 homes.

SSE currently generates around 80MW of renewable energy from its four operational wind farms in Northern Ireland. The delivery of Glenconway 2 will bring SSE’s total renewable energy operating capacity in Northern Ireland to around 125MW.

“We are very pleased to add the Glenconway 2 project to our Slieve Kirk wind farm cluster which is another important step towards our target of 1,200MW of onshore wind operating in Ireland’s Single Energy Market by 2022,” said Paul Cooley, general manager Ireland for SSE Renewables.

“This acquisition is in keeping with SSE’s core purpose of providing customers with the energy they need, and reinforces our position as the leading renewable energy developer and generator in Northern Ireland where we already supply over 130,000 electricity customers through our retail energy supply brand Airtricity.”

Both Gaelectric projects total an additional 25MW of consented wind power and bring its onshore portfolio with planning approvals on the island of Ireland to 130MW. Gaelectric has commenced a significant build-out programme to commission 150MW of wind generation by 2016.

A project at Skrine, Co Roscommon, was commissioned in June 2011, while its Carn Hill project outside Belfast (13.8MW) is under construction and due to be commissioned in early 2013.

“We are delighted with the positive outcomes from the planning process in Northern Ireland which further de-risks our onshore portfolio in Ireland,” said group CEO Brendan McGrath.

“We have now reached a stage of maturity in this end of our business where most of our projects are either at financial close, construction ready, or have consents in place, including firm grid offers.

“We are particularly pleased to be in position to offer our investors – current and future – a tangible renewable energy opportunity with clear visibility of projects and future opportunities.”

In addition to its onshore Ireland wind portfolio, Gaelectric has a significant US wind development business and is also progressing a grid scale strategic energy storage project utilising Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) technology near Larne.