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16/10/2015

Pioneering Antrim energy project wins EU backing

Words: Roger Milne

An ambitious project to store compressed air in huge caverns created under the County Antrim coastline has been given a significant EU grant of €6.5 million.

The scheme, currently at the exploratory and feasibility stage, now looks more likely to climb off the drawing board.

But there are concerns about the effects the project could have on marine life.

Dublin-based renewable energy developer Gaelectric is proposing to build a compressed air energy storage (CAES) facility – only the third of its kind anywhere in the world - in Northern Ireland.

The project would see the creation of underground caverns to store energy in the form of compressed air, which would then be released to generate electricity when demand is high.

The company plans to create the air storage spaces by hollowing out salt deposits deep underground. Gaelectric plans to eject the unused salt out into the sea, just off the Northern Ireland coastline.

It is currently assessing sites in the Islandmagee area, with particular focus on the area between Ballylumford power station and the Moyle Interconnector.

Meanwhile, oil and gas exploration firm Infrastrata is forging ahead with plans for a gas storage project at Islandmagee. The project involves creating caverns to store 500 million cubic metres of natural gas beneath Larne Lough.

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