Gaelectric, the Dublin-based energy firm, has secured EU grant funding for its proposed compressed air energy storage (CAES) project in County Antrim.
If plans are approved, the innovative project will see compressed air storage caverns created in the deep salt deposits around Islandmagee.
It will help to overcome an inherent problem with renewables: so-called ‘wrong time energy’ which occurs when wind turbines a solar panels produce more electricity than is needed at any given moment – power that can’t currently be stored economically at scale and so goes to waste.
The Galectric CAES project will see surplus wind and solar energy used to compress air into the caverns which can later be released to drive turbines and create electricity at times of high demand.
The scheme is being hailed as one of the first of its kind, and a potential ‘clean energy’ breakthrough.
But campaigners living nearby fear it will slash property values by as much as 50%, whilst environmentalists say that the creation of the caverns will wash too much salt into the sea, making it uninhabitable for marine life.
Gaelectric hopes to submit a planning application and Environmental Impact Assessment for the project by the end of 2015. If approved, construction could begin in 2019.