Clean Technology & Energy
The Borough has long been a powerhouse supplying electricity to the Northern Ireland economy.
The power stations at Kilroot and Ballylumford on the East Antrim coast have long supplied the majority of NI’s electricity needs. EP UK Investments Ltd took over these plants in late 2019 and are transitioning to new cleaner sources of generation involving the integration of renewables. The Kilroot plant near Carrickfergus, is also the location for a planned Green Energy Park investment of £600m incorporating a range of technologies and applications.
The electricity grid distribution infrastructure is well developed in the Borough including interconnection to mainland UK and forms part of the Integrated Single Electricity Market (i-SEM) operational across the island of Ireland. There is also extensive natural gas pipeline infrastructure and interconnection with local town gas networks in place and the local gas utility companies are exploring avenues to green the natural gas supply potentially using bio-fuels or green hydrogen generated from renewables.
There are currently over 60 businesses large and small operating across the energy and wider clean growth sector. The global climate challenge has created an impetus for new innovative solutions and created challenges and market opportunities for local businesses operating in the manufacturing, engineering, agri-food, energy and environmental sectors, collectively known as the Clean Technology sector (Cleantech).
Given the existing strengths and assets in the Borough Council is developing a cleantech strategy focus and the i4C innovation centre in Ballymena that is due to open in 2025 will play a key cleantech hub role. The centre will house a range of accommodation and supports including an engineering led Innovation Laboratory (iLAB) offering a range of facilitated innovation supports and training for the cleantech sector i.e. for the emerging hydrogen economy.
Image – The Northern Ireland Electricity Grid Network 2019 (Copyright SONI)
Where we are now?
A snapshot of some of the businesses in the energy and wider clean growth sector
- The EPUK portfolio includes the 708 MW gas-fired plant at Ballylumford in Larne and the 701 MW power plant and 10 MW energy storage facility at Kilroot, Carrickfergus
- Stream Bio-Energy invested £23m in a 3 MW chicken litter biogas plant at Tully Quarry near Ballymena in 2016 the most advanced facility in Europe at this time.
- Elgin Energy have operated a 9 MW solar farm at Ballygarvey, Ballymena since 2015
- Ecotricity operate two 2.3 MW wind turbines adjacent to the former Michelin plant Ballymena while there are a number of windfarms across the Borough.
- The B9 Energy Group was established in Larne in 1992 and operates a number of windfarms, an AD plant and provides a range of renewable energy solutions
- Mutual Energy Ltd manage both the natural gas pipeline and electricity interconnector with Scotland that come on shore in Islandmagee near Larne
- Firmus Energy and Phoenix Natural Gas operate differing franchise areas of the gas network in the Borough.
- Infrastrata are currently developing plans for a natural gas storage facility at Islandmagee via their Islandmagee Energy Ltd subsidiary
- GES Group the specialist electrical and mechanical engineering company headquartered in Ballymena are partners on the Girona project a £7.5m investment representing the first ever smart grid in Northern Ireland.
Ryobi Aluminium Casting (UK) Ltd based in Carrickfergus produces aluminium components using the high pressure die casting process for the automotive industry i.e. next generation of lightweight electric vehicles
- Wrightbus based in Ballymena, part the Ryse Hydrogen/JCB group are at the forefront of the hydrogen energy revolution in the transportation sector.
Image – Kilroot Energy Park masterplan identifies potential future investment of c£600m on the 230 acre site
What does the future hold?
The UK and other leading nations are moving towards a zero carbon future by a target date of 2050. Government policy and regulatory drivers, plus technological advancements will play a key role in this zero carbon transition and firms in the Borough are well placed to seize the opportunities arising. Council and industry partners through the Manufacturing Task Force for Mid and East Antrim are proactively collaborating with local SME’s, universities and industry specialists in developing joint responses and initiatives.
Image – Wrightbus Factory floor
Why Mid & East Antrim?
The Borough forms an important part of energy infrastructure for Northern Ireland, with several key businesses operating in the sector that invest in innovation and R&D activity and on collaborative approaches to industry challenges. Furthermore, there are a number of supports and incentives that can be offered for businesses establishing in the Borough including unique channels of assistance.
For more information visit: https://www.midandeastantrim.gov.uk/business/amplify-mid-and-east-antrim/business-support