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 are transitioning to new cleaner sources of generation involving the integration of renewables. Kilroot 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 including interconnection from the Borough to mainland UK with Northern Ireland being part of an Integrated Single Electricity Market (i-SEM) operational across the island of Ireland. There is also extensive natural gas pipeline infrastructure and local town gas networks across the Borough, and the gas utility companies are exploring avenues to green the natural gas supply potentially using biofuels 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 and Covid pandemic have created an impetus for new innovative solution and created challenges and market opportunities for local businesses operating in the manufacturing, engineering, agri-food and environmental sectors.
In this regard Council is currently progressing the development of a new cleantech focused innovation centre in Ballymena. Due to open in 2024 the i4C Centre will house office accommodation, SME workshop space and an engineering led Innovation Laboratory (iLAB) that will offer a range of practical facilitated innovation supports and training i.e. around advanced energy solutions
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.
- Wrightbus based in Ballymena, part the Ryse Hydrogen/JCB group are at the forefront of the hydrogen energy revolution in the transportation sector.
Image – Ballylumford Power Station, Larne
What does the future hold?
The UK is moving towards a zero carbon future by a target date of 2025. Government policy and regulation drivers, technological change and environmental concerns will play a key role in the 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 an integrated road-map for the carbon transition to zero by the year 2050 target.
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 place special emphasis on investment not only on innovation and R&D activity but also 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 assistance.
For more information visit: https://www.midandeastantrim.gov.uk/business/amplify-mid-and-east-antrim/business-support