Green campaigners say they welcome government plans to explore the potential for offshore wind farms in Manx territorial waters.
Economic Development Minister John Shimmin MHK said that locating wind turbines in Manx waters could generate millions of pounds a year for the public purse – and create scores of new jobs.
But any wind farms within the 12-mile nautical limit would generate renewable energy for export to the UK rather than to supply island consumers.
And there are fears that turbines will be a blight on the sea. Concerns have already been raised about over-intensive wind farm development close to Manx waters that could disrupt lifeline ferry services.
Friends of the Earth island secretary Cat Turner welcomed the announcement that the government will be seeking a consultant to help with forthcoming expressions of interest and tenders for offshore wind farms in the Manx seas.
She said: ‘Offshore wind farms generally are a good thing provided they are installed and maintained in a way that doesn’t damage the seabed, the environment or disrupts shipping patterns.
‘They generate clean energy and therefore cut carbon emissions. The financial revenues they could generate are a good thing for the island but that shouldn’t be the only thing that matters.’
Ms Turner said she supported the idea that energy generated would be exported to the UK to help meet its national and European renewable energy targets for 2020 – but she added: ‘I think the Isle of Man should be doing more to create its own clean energy.’
The Manx government has abandoned its ambitious green energy target of having 15 per cent of energy generated from renewable sources by 2015 – after admitting it will be impossible to achieve in time.
Instead, it’s adopting an EU target of cutting greenhouse gases by 80 per cent from 1990 levels by the year 2050.
Economic Development Minister John Shimmin said: ‘There is a significant opportunity for the Isle of Man to lease parts of its seabed for the generation of renewable energy.
‘Locating wind turbines in our territorial sea will potentially generate millions of pounds worth of revenue per year for the Isle of Man Government.’
He said that were other potential economic benefits. Onshore maintenance facilities will be needed and it was estimated just one wind farm could create about 60 jobs.
The minister cited previous research that indicated 85 per cent of the Manx public were in favour of an offshore wind farm.
He stressed that consultation will continue with all those potentially impacted. It will be for the developers to identify suitable sites within our territorial waters based on existing constraints including fisheries and shipping lanes.
Ken Milne, DED’s senior manager for energy policy, said the shallow depth of water and close proximity to the UK made offshore wind generation cost effective.
He said with the UK’s own hydrocarbon energy sources in decline, there was an opportunity for the Isle of Man to export more sustainable and climate-friendly energy.
The DED said the scale of electricity generated by a commercial offshore wind farm is too great for the island’s own use as we already have a stable and reliable supply of electricity – although it may be possible in later years for us to import a percentage of the renewable energy generated.
The idea of wind farms has been opposed by the vast majority of people commenting on our website. Visit iomtoday.co.im to read more.