An energy project designed to provide back-up power capable of supplying 200,000 homes has come a step aclose to fruition with the award of f8.2m (£6.9m) in European funding.
The compressed air energy storage (CAES) project at Islandmagee near Larne, is being developed by renewables group Gaeletric and will store energy in the form of compressed air in underground salt caverns.
The project was designated as a European Project of Common Interest (‘PCI’) in 2013, and has previously been awarded (in July 2015) EU grant support of €6.5 million for front end engineering and design studies.
This latest award is for the drilling of an appraisal well, and detailed studies into the design and commercial structure of the project.
“€8.28 million in additional EU financing is a major boost to the Project and a further validation of the importance and need for the Project, both for Northern Ireland and for wider UK and European energy markets,” said Keith McGrane, head of energy storage at Gaelectric.
“The Project will provide critical generation capacity of 330 MW for periods of up to 6 to 8 hours duration which is enough to meet the electricity needs of over 200,000 homes, and create demand on the system of 250 MW.
“It will also be the first in a pipeline of CAES projects which Gaelectric is developing across the rest of the United Kingdom and into Europe, each designed to help system operators meet generation needs and the challenges of increasing renewable generation being connected to Europe’s power systems.
“Northern Ireland and Larne will be the vanguards for safe, flexible and technologically advanced energy storage.”
Gaelectric corporate affairs manager, Patrick McClughan, said: “Gaelectric and our CAES project partners are committed to maximising the economic benefits for the local community and local businesses.
“These will be a mixture of direct jobs at the site and in companies supplying the site both during its construction and operational phases, and indirect benefits in the forms of additional, reliable large scale generation coming onto the system, greater energy security and more competitive energy pricing.”
Other opportunities to be developed, include technology and environmental tourism where Northern Ireland can demonstrate to visitors how CAES works and benefits it will be providing to the operation of the energy system in Northern Ireland, he added.