THE construction of a huge wind farm between Anglesey and the Isle of Man could provide enormous employment opportunities for the island.
As part of the Energy Expo event held at Isle of Man College at the weekend, energy giant Centrica outlined plans for its £8 billion investment in an Irish Sea offshore wind farm.
Centrica was awarded development rights for The Irish Sea Zone in January last year, the 2,200 sq km zone, which is adjacent to Manx territorial waters, being one of nine areas identified in round 3 of the Crown Estate offshore wind programme.
Construction of Irish Sea Zone wind farms, which will generate 4.2 gigawatts from about 1,000 turbines, could begin as early as 2016 if planning approval is given.
These turbines would be visible from the island on a clear day.
And as the Isle of Man would be the nearest landfall to the northern area of the Centrica scheme, officials in the Economic Development Department say this will put us in a prime position to deliver essential products and services.
Dr Ken Milne, senior manager for energy policy, said a number of local firms were already involved in survey work for offshore wind farm schemes.
He said this could include survey work in the early phase of the project and later on in subsea cable-laying, operations and maintenance work. ‘This is an enormous investment and there are great opportunities,’ said Dr Milne
He said the Manx Government had been in discussions with the Centrica to look at the possibility for Manx businesses to be part of the supply chain for the offshore wind farm scheme. As part of this, the energy firm has been invited to make a presentation at the Energy Expo event to explain the opportunities.
The presentation was given by Centrica’s Irish Sea Zone’s development managers, Laura Jeffs and Marie Scarlett.
They confirmed that a geophysical survey to map the seabed was completed in August last year and sediment sampling has also been completed. Fishing surveys have been undertaken, bird and marine mammal surveys commenced and shipping data and archaeological data collected
Dr Milne said that energy created by the Irish Sea Zone wind farm would all go into the UK grid.
He said Centrica had worked with Isle of Man Steam Packet to minimise disruption to shipping lanes. Energy Expo also featured a marine plan workshop entitled ‘Securing a Sustainable Future’.