Kilroot extension proposal will 'keep lights on in Northern Ireland'

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An extension to a turbine hall at Kilroot Power Station outside Carrickfergus to “secure Northern Ireland’s electricity supply” has been approved by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Planning Committee.

The proposal involves modification to the turbine hall to accommodate two heat recovery steam generators and two gas flue stacks which are required for the station’s conversion from oil/coal-fired generation to gas.

Councillors were told this fuel generation is scheduled to cease in September 2023.

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Planning officer Denise Kerr said the proposed new flue stacks will be 90 metres in height. The existing chimney stack is 200 metres. There will also be a new oil tank and a replacement oil tank required for emergency operation of the turbines.

Kilroot Power Station, Carrickfergus. Photo: Michelle Weir, Local Democracy ReporterKilroot Power Station, Carrickfergus. Photo: Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter
Kilroot Power Station, Carrickfergus. Photo: Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

She went on to say the planned extension and stacks will “give the appearance that they are part of the existing building”. “The visual impacts are considered acceptable,” she added.

She noted the Northern Ireland Health and Safety Executive, Northern Ireland Environment Agency and Translink are “satisfied” the proposed development meets requirements.

She reported that planners have received six representations in relation to the proposal including whether the local authority should be considering the application and concern over greenhouse gas emission.

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The officer stated the development is “an essential element” for generating electricity in Northern Ireland and in the conversion of the plant to gas. She added this is “designed to reduce emissions”.

Local Employment

Kieran Tubridy, commercial director EPUKI, told the meeting electricity generation has been taking place at the site for the last 40 years as well as providing “significant local employment and supply chain opportunity”.

Mr Tubridy stressed the company “remains committed to taking forward significant investment” across its sites which represents £600m overall at Kilroot.

The development, he noted, “represents a significant milestone” and is vital for the security of electricity supply in Northern Ireland. He continued that the application is a “key part of a wider plan for Kilroot”.

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The company has said previously if taken forward in its entirety, the Kilroot Energy Park vision would have the potential to generate up to 440MW of lower carbon and renewable energy, which is enough to power 500,000 homes.

Coast Road DUP Councillor Angela Smyth asked: “If it does not take place are we facing a black-out in Northern Ireland?”

Mr Tubridy advised as a “highly significant capacity”, it would secure supply for Northern Ireland and although he could not say there would be “black-outs”, there would be “severe gaps”.

Carbon Footprint

Larne Lough DUP Alderman Paul Reid asked if the new turbines would reduce the plant’s carbon footprint. He was told it would result in a 60 per cent reduction in carbon emissions. Ald Reid proposed the committee approve planning permission.

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Bannside DUP Ald Tom Gordon said: “This is good. This replacement plan is absolutely necessary so we can keep the lights on in Northern Ireland. I welcome this application.”

Ald Reid added: “This is a good news story for Kilroot. If we do not do something, it will be lights out in Northern Ireland. That is how serious this is. I am delighted to see the carbon footprint will be reduced. I am happy to propose.”

His proposal was seconded by Cllr Smyth and approved unanimously.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter