The North Irish Sea Array or NISA was first mooted in 2009 by a company called Gaelectric. That company carried out a number of studies and made an application to the Department for a foreshore site investigation licence which was granted in February 2012. However, Gaelectric did not advance the project from that point.
Statkraft is now taking this work forward and looking to develop the proposal. The project has moved on from advanced concept design, and surveys, consultations and assessments will be carried out over the next year, to inform the content of a planning application submission for the project.
We have already started to engage with those who work in fisheries in order to inform our initial consideration of how this proposal might work best. We have listened to their views and we are endeavouring to incorporate their feedback in our design proposal in order to minimise any impacts on commercial fishing and maximise the capture all opportunities for benefits for the fishing community. These discussions have influenced our initial design concept which has reduced the number of turbines and the potential visual impacts (See further information on the Pod Concept TAB)
As we gather more information our proposals will be further refined.
It makes sense to develop an offshore wind farm close to areas of high electricity demand. By situating the wind farm close to the area with our country’s greatest electricity demand we will be able to connect direct to the electricity grid, where it is needed most. We will be able to generate clean energy to power approximately 500,000 homes in the area.
Initial iterations of the design worked to maximise the wind energy output of the site whilst minimising costs. These initial iterations consisted of approximately 50 turbines located in the shallowest waters allowing for the most energy efficient turbine separation distances. Whilst this design approach would allow for the most technically and financially efficient layout, it was recognised that it would not reflect what might be the most suitable and appropriate design in terms of achieving a balance of aesthetics and appropriateness for stakeholders in the local area.
We are currently working to maximise the distance between the coast and the wind farm whilst still building in waters that are suitable for what are known as fixed base wind turbines. Fixed base turbines can be built in waters up to a depth in the region of 50 to 60 metres. Beyond these depths floating bases would be required. In the longer term, with the further development of technologies and reductions in costs, floating base wind farms may be developed in Ireland however, it is envisaged that fixed base foundations will form the basis of all offshore wind farms that will be developed in Ireland in the nearer term.
A copy of some of the initial design iterations can be view in the further information section
While all those who live on the coast have a relationship with the sea, we recognise that it is the fishers and fishing communities who make their living from our seas. It is for this reason that fishers were the first stakeholders that we engaged with.
One of the first appointments on the NISA project team was a dedicated Fisheries Liaison Officer (FLO). The FLO has engaged with the fishing industry from the earliest stages in order to establish lines of communication, develop understanding and to identify opportunities with the view to establishing how a balanced approach can be taken to the design and development of this project. This engagement has included BIM, the relevant RIFF’s and individual fishermen working in the local area.
Offshore renewable energy (ORE) is a new industry developing in Irish seas. In this context, it is understandable that those involved in the fishing industry would have questions regarding how ORE might impact their activities and their communities. Feedback from the fishing industry has shown that there is a mix of views across the industry from those who believe that ORE can bring benefits and opportunities to the fishing community to those who have a range of reservations with regard to how ORE might work. A review of international experiences identified that whilst, as a rule, fishing industries in other jurisdictions were not considered in terms of the design of offshore wind farms, fishing industries have continued to be active in offshore wind farm areas, albeit to varying degrees.
From the initial stages of consideration of the NISA concept, Statkraft and the NISA project team, have given a commitment to take a new approach to ORE development and to engage with the fishing industry in a proactive manner during the early design stage, to take feedback into account in terms of both concept and detailed design and to work with the fishing industry to identify how benefits can be brought to the commercial fishing community.
Feedback from engagement with individuals and organisations in the fishing industry has already influenced the NISA design process. Consideration of the fishing communities was a central consideration in the adoption of the pod concept of the wind farm layout as was the orientation of the rows of turbines in NNW-SSE rows. We believe that these design features will allow the wind farm to be navigable (and fishable) in the preferred directions by the fishers should they wish to do so at any point during the 30 year plus life of the wind farm.
As is to be expected with the development of a new industry, there will be challenges to be identified, understood and overcome. We believe that fishing and ORE can successfully coexist. We are committed to building on local and international knowledge and experiences to propose an ORE development which will minimise any impacts on existing fishing practices and identify opportunities which will allow ORE to support the fishing communities.
Experience would strongly suggest that proactive, openminded engagement between all stakeholders will deliver the best outcomes on all sides.
We want to achieve the most visually appropriate development possible. Our aim is to design a proposal that, whilst visible, it will be as sensitive and appropriate as possible in terms of a renewable energy development in the seascape. As part of this aim, we have already worked to maximise the distance the turbines will be from the shore, as well as considering different ways of positioning the turbines to minimise the visual impact.
Initial design iterations of the NISA project included significantly more turbines (in excess of 50) arranged in a typical wind farm configuration consisting of a block type layout. Our aspiration has been to move away from this type of arrangement with straight, ‘picket fence’ type view of turbines. We are currently considering arranging the turbines into separate groups or pods, arranged in north-easterly rows. Instead of all the turbines lines lined up in a single row, the turbines will be arranged in three groupings, at various distances from the shore. This will help to create a more open view between the pods of turbines and minimise the visual impact on the seascape. As the project develops, more photomontages will be created and made available for viewing. Photomontages currently available are available HERE. We are still at an early stage of the project evolution. No firm decisions have been made yet and all of these considerations will be contingent on further consultation and studies in the local area.