Isle of Man seeks offshore developers

The Isle of Man government will today invite expressions of interest from offshore renewables developers as it prepares to invite tenders this spring for wind and tidal projects in the 4,000 sq km of territorial waters around the Irish Sea island.

Ken Milne, senior manager for energy policy at the Isle of Man Department of Economic Development, told Recharge: “We have carried out a high level strategic assessment, and there are a number of potential sites suitable for wind development.

“At this stage we are looking at up to 2GW of offshore wind generation – probably 1GW by 2020 and another 1GW in deeper waters, post-2020 – plus several hundred megawatts of tidal power.”

Approximately equidistant from Britain and Ireland in the middle of the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man is a self-governing dependency of the British Crown. It is located on the doorstep of major UK project areas such as the Dong/Centrica 4.2GW Irish Sea Zone and the Walney wind farm extension, also Dong.

Milne said that the island has had “good initial discussions with a couple of developers in both the offshore wind and tidal areas.”

But Milne declined to name the companies involved at this stage. “We expect to formally invite tenders in April, evaluate them, and appoint a developer, or developers, during the summer months – hopefully by the end of July,” he said.

“It’s going to be structured just like a UK Crown Estate Round 3 zone, with the whole Isle of Man area available for development, subject to the usual constraints in our Manx Environmental Impact Assessment.

“Obviously there will be some no go areas, such as shipping lanes where we will not tolerate development, and any areas which are covered by radar which would have to be mitigated or avoided.”

The Isle of Man is supporting the intergovernmental agreement between the UK and Ireland, which is expected to be signed this year. The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding at the start of 2013 on the potential exporting of wind power from Ireland to the UK, via subsea interconnectors.

“Hopefully an agreement will be in place this spring, which will then give more certainty to offshore developers. We have been discussing this issue with the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change,” he says.

Steve Malley, director of accountancy firm Baker Tilly, told an Isle of Man economic seminar in London, that the island has already built a great working relationship with developers. “This is a windy island, with average wind speeds of 7-8 m/s and a tidal range in excess of 8 metres.”

“We are looking to be an ecoisland, and are working very closely with the local community, NGO’s, and the local business sector to launch an umbrella organisation in the next few months,” says Milne.