THE government is drawing up a plan to ensure any wind farms built in Manx waters would not affect ferry routes.
Work on the Isle of Man Marine Plan is under way and the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture’s director of environment Martin Hall said it was important it was completed in a ‘timely manner’.
One of the plan’s objectives would be to identify current activities in Manx waters and safeguard their ongoing use. Mapping the location of navigation corridors, important natural areas and pipelines/cables will enable the island to identify potential wind farm sites that will not adversely affect current uses of the Manx marine environment, including ferry routes and fishing.
The comments come following criticism from the Steam Packet over Centrica’s plans for a wind farm in the Irish Sea, outside Manx waters.
The company says that Centrica plans to develop in the path of both the Isle of Man to Liverpool and Isle of Man to Heysham routes, in spite of complaints from the Steam Packet.
Steam Packet chief executive Mark Woodward has called the situation ‘unworkable’ and ‘unacceptable’, saying it could have an adverse impact on future services.
Environment Minister Phil Gawne MHK, a supporter of wind technology, is keen to propound the benefits of wind power to the island, but will be conscious of the ill-will that could be generated should the Steam Packet’s concerns come to fruition.
Mr Gawne is looking north for wind farm inspiration as the Scottish Government has given consent for a 127 turbine 370MW development to be constructed in Shetland, with an interconnector to mainland Scotland.
The Viking Wind Farm will provide electricity for more than 16 times the number of homes in Shetland and will bring in around £30 million to the community, as well as creating other economic benefits such as jobs.
The interconnector will mean the Shetlands will be able to further develop renewable technologies, including marine.
Mr Gawne said: ‘While I know there is some scepticism among the Manx public about wind farms the Shetland Viking project demonstrates the considerable economic value that can be generated for small island economies from such projects.
‘This wind farm in Shetland, if mirrored here, would half our current deficit and realise other economic benefits including service industry jobs.’
Likely as a reassurance, Mr Hall’s comments on the importance of the Isle of Man Marine Plan are included in the same statement.
Mr Hall says it is ‘critical’ for the island, should it wish to pursue a similar route to that of Shetland and export Manx renewable energy to the UK and beyond, that work now being done on a Marine Spatial Plan is done quickly. Mr Hall said, unlike Shetland, the island’s wind farm potential is largely marine based.
As part of the Isle of Man Marine Plan, a ‘stakeholder led’ Manx Marine Environmental Assessment is being carried out to bring together the information currently available for Manx territorial waters, which covers an area of 4,000-square km, with the final report expected to be available for public viewing during this summer.