Leasing the seabed in Manx territorial waters for each offshore wind farm could earn government £5m a year – and create at least 60 jobs.
That’s one of the findings of a Council of Minister’s report on the strategy for offshore energy production, which will be debated at this week’s Tynwald sitting.
There are already a series of plans to build giant wind farms in the Irish Sea beyond the 12-mile limit of Manx waters.
But the CoMin report says that given the shallow depth of water in our territorial seas there was the potential to provide sites for cost effective offshore wind farms supplying renewable energy to the UK.
It states: ‘A significant opportunity therefore exists for the Isle of Man to lease its seabed for the generation of renewable energy for export to assist the UK to meet its national and European renewable energy targets.
‘Leases of the Isle of Man seabed for large offshore wind projects will last 25 years with an option to extend to 50 years and provide revenue to Isle of Man Government worth around £5m per year.’
The report says that emerging technologies such as tidal and wave generation may provide limited income generation in the short term but their long term potential will be significant.
Offshore installations will require onshore operation and maintenance facilities and it is forecasted at least 60 new jobs would be created on any offshore wind farm project site after the construction phase.
CoMin proposes to progress plans to develop up to a maximum of 2GW from offshore wind and 200MW from marine renewable power for export to the UK. Any agreement to lease the seabed would include a future option for the island to purchase a proportion of the renewable energy for our own use.
An expression of interest notice was issued in January 2014 seeking potential developers for offshore wind and tidal projects in Manx territorial seas.
The government is also intending to issue prospecting licenses for hydrocarbon extraction. Initial studies indicate there’s a gas reserve of more than 100 billion cubic feet with a value of about £400m.
A royalty would be levied for extraction which again would mainly be for export to the UK and could generate around £100m over 20 years in revenue.
Offshore gas exploration and extraction could generate jobs in the installation, operation and maintenance of facilities.
CoMin’s report has ruled out ‘fracking’ for shale gas for now, saying it is not currently economically viable and regulatory and environmental issues need to resolved in the UK.
Concerns remain over the impact of wind farms on shipping lanes, aviation, fisheries and wildlife.
The report acknowledges the offshore energy policy has to take into account all these factors.
‘It is accepted it may not be possible to permit renewable energy developments that have a detrimental impact on the island’s air and sea links,’ it states.