Belfast Harbour and Danish firm, DONG Energy, one of the leading energy groups in Northern Europe, have signed a letter of intent for an agreement which could make Belfast one of the UK's leading renewable energy hubs. DONG Energy is progressing a number of offshore wind farm projects in the Irish Sea and its intention is to use Belfast Harbour as a base for their construction and operation. The letter of intent was announced at a meeting today in Belfast Harbour Office attended by representatives from the Northern Ireland Executive, Peter Gedbjerg, Vice President and UK Country Manager of DONG Energy, and Len O'Hagan, Chairman of Belfast Harbour.
As part of the project, Belfast Harbour is to fund and build a new £40m, 450m quay and 50-acre logistics space, roughly twice the size of Belfast’s Botanic Gardens, on the County Down side of the Harbour. The project would create up to 300 full time jobs and 150 construction posts. If a final agreement is signed, DONG Energy will use the facility to pre-assemble both the turbines and their foundations. The scheme represents one of the Harbour’s largest ever capital investment projects.
Speaking at Belfast Harbour Office, Peter Gedbjerg, DONG Energy Vice President and UK Country Manager, Power, said:
"The United Kingdom has a very ambitious plan for expanding the production of renewable energy. We are very proud to be helping make this plan come alive and we hope to achieve a long and fruitful relationship with Belfast Harbour. The possibility of a tailor-made facility to make the installation of offshore wind turbines even more efficient fits perfectly with DONG Energy’s goal of bringing down the construction cost of renewable energy."
Over the next 20 years it’s expected that 11,000 new offshore wind turbines will be built in UK and Irish territorial waters at a cost of c. £100bn. 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 centre in the rapidly expanding offshore wind sector.
The Crown Estate, which manages licences for UK offshore wind farms, has awarded DONG Energy (as part of its Round 2 and 2.5 Licence Rounds), the licence to construct the West of Duddon Sands Offshore Wind Farm together with Scottish Power Renewables, and to further extend the capacity of the Burbo Bank (up to 234 MW) and Walney (up to 750 MW) offshore wind farms in the Irish Sea.
Len O’Hagan, Belfast Harbour’s Chairman said:
“This initiative, which the Harbour has been pursuing for well over a year, has the potential to kick-start Belfast’s aspirations to become a leading player in the new green economy.
“Belfast Harbour has a long track record of investing in new infrastructure, such as the dry docks and quays which helped make Belfast the ‘shipbuilder to the world’ or the aerodrome which laid the basis for Belfast’s aviation industry. In similar vein, our expectation is that investment in a new offshore wind facility will help establish a new 21st century renewable cluster.
“In addition to turbine assembly operations, there may also be opportunities to attract turbine manufacturers to Northern Ireland, helping to lay the basis of a Marine Energy Park that would create significant numbers of new high-value-add jobs and inward investment.
Belfast is the only port on the island of Ireland with the capacity to undertake a turnkey investment of this scale in the timescales required. DONG Energy is a world leader in offshore wind farms and has built five of the world’s ten largest offshore wind farms.
Lord Stephen Green, the UK’s Trade & Investment Minister, who visited Belfast Harbour yesterday said:
“The UK needs to attract the type of investment that will create long-term sustainable and balanced growth.
“Today’s significant announcement recognises not only that Belfast is one of the most successful cities at attracting investment in the UK, but also that DONG has confidence in the future of the UK as the world’s number one offshore wind energy generator. I warmly congratulate those involved and wish them every success.”
Ten years after the first wind farm was commissioned, the UK is now Europe’s leading offshore wind generator. Currently planned offshore wind projects will generate 32 gigawatts of electricity or one quarter of the UK’s electricity needs.
The planned development of a Marine Energy Park is supported by Belfast Harbour’s long-term land reclamation strategy (the proposed site was initially reclaimed in the 1960s) and will complement the decision by Bombardier, Queen’s University and the University of Ulster to develop the Northern Ireland Advanced Composites and Engineering Centre, also within Belfast Harbour Estate.