Questions and Answers

First Flight Wind - The Project

+ Who is First Flight Wind?

First Flight Wind is a consortium comprising B9 Energy, DONG Energy and RES. It has been established to develop, install and operate an offshore wind facility in the Northern Ireland Offshore Wind Resource Zone, off the south east coast of County Down, Northern Ireland.


+ Where did the name First Flight Wind come from?

When naming the project, we wanted to pay tribute to Northern Ireland’s pioneering spirit. In 1910, the first official powered flight in Ireland was made over the sands of Newcastle, County Down. That first flight stands testament to the forward thinking, innovative and inspired engineering of Northern Ireland. As we work towards gaining more of our electricity supplies from renewable sources by 2020, the First Flight Wind project hopes to play its part by producing indigenous and low-carbon electricity.

+ Why are you building an offshore wind farm?

As the draft Northern Ireland Marine Positon Paper (2012) states, 'without reliable and affordable energy, economies and communities will cease to function.'  Northern Ireland is currently too heavily dependent on imported fossil fuels. Higher levels of renewable and low carbon energy need to be part of the overall energy mix. This will increase energy diversity and security, reduce carbon emissions, address climate change issues, contribute to EU Renewable Energy Directive targets and provide employment, business supply chain opportunities and economic benefits to local companies.

Northern Ireland draft Marine Position Paper, 2012

+ What is the Crown Estate and how is it involved in this project?

The Crown Estate manages an estate worth over £7.3 billion, and has extensive marine assets. Rights from The Crown Estate, in the form of a Lease, are required for the placement of structures or cables on the seabed. The net revenues generated by The Crown Estate go to the UK Treasury. On the 1st April 2012, the Coastal Communities Fund was launched. Revenues generated from The Crown Estate's marine assets are reinvested across the UK to support economic development in coastal communities.

The Crown Estate 
The Big Lottery Fund


+ How has this area been selected for an offshore wind farm?

This 'Wind Resource Zone' was first identified as part of a detailed Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) process in 2009 that was the subject of public consultation and a subsequent comprehensive Habitats Regulations Appraisal. The Crown Estate then launched a leasing competition in December 2011 for the single Zone off the County Down coastline, which is considered capable of accommodating up to 600MW of capacity. First Flight Wind will now undertake a number of studies to identify the most appropriate site to locate an offshore wind farm within this zone.

SEA of Offshore Wind and Marine Renewable Energy in Northern Ireland

+ How were local people consulted on the SEA carried out by DETI?

In May 2009 the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) went out to consultation on the scoping report for the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for its offshore renewable energy plans. Consultation on the scope of the SEA was also achieved through a workshop where concerns and issues with the scope of the SEA were tabled and discussed.

Subsequently, in December 2009, the draft Offshore Renewable Action Plan (ORESAP) and the SEA were published for a three month consultation and were widely circulated across the UK and ROI to key stakeholders. A seminar was held in Belfast in February 2010 which was attended by some 100 delegates from all sectors operating within the marine environment. This engagement enabled a wide audience to discuss the ORESAP proposals.


+ What are you doing to inform the public of your plans?

First Flight Wind’s public consultation programme began at the public launch of the project in October 2012.  We invited a broad range of locally and nationally based organisations to participate and designed a range of public information materials. Anyone can contact us to join our mailing list and information materials are available on our website, and at the 18 information points . Our initial Information Days took place in November 2012 travelling to 6 different venues in Co Down and Co Louth. We held a second round of Information Days in September 2013 to update local communities on the project’s development. A further two rounds of consultation will take place before any application for consent is made.
We are happy to meet with any group to discuss our plans, and we have regular updates via our website, 'First Flight' newsletter, in the media, on our Twitter feed, Facebook page and Vimeo video channel.

Tourism and Business

+ Will this project be detrimental to local tourism?

We don’t believe this would be the case. Offshore wind farms are being promoted to visitors and have been incorporated as part of plans to extend the tourist season through environmental and marine tourism.

There have been a number of studies carried out throughout the UK which show that onshore wind farms do not have an overall detrimental impact on tourism. In November 2013, Good Energy produced the report 'The Impact of Renewable Energy Farms on Visitors to Cornwall'. When asked, 94% of visitors said the presence of wind and solar farms would make no difference in their decision to visit Cornwall, with 80% having a positive attitude to renewable energy. A similar study by VisitScotland in 2011 highlighted that 80% of visitors wouldn’t be deterred by the presence of a wind farm.

For offshore wind energy, Thanet Offshore wind farm near Kent, which is located approximately 12 km off Foreness Point, has attracted many visitors; a 3 hour boat trip will take you along the East Thanet Coast to North Foreland and onto the Thanet wind farm. Also Scroby Sands, commissioned in 2004, has a visitor centre that attracts over 35,000 visitors annually.

In June 2013 First Flight Wind established a Socio-Economics and Tourism Working Group to address any relevant concerns or issues and to create a forum where areas of opportunity could be discussed and actioned upon. Stakeholders on the Working Group represent business, tourism and education. 

VisitScotland Wind Farm Consumer Research
Scroby Sands Offshore Wind Farm
Good Energy, The Impact of Renewable Energy Farms on Visitors to Cornwall, November 2013 



+ Won’t wind energy mean long term damage to the beauty of this area?

Changes to the landscape happen all the time, and wind farm developments can often become part of it quite readily. The effects on the landscape and other visual implications of wind farm developments are generally of greatest concern to the public, and often the reason why people oppose wind farm proposals.

The turbines will be visible from nearby locations, depending on weather. In June 2013 we established 6 technical Working Groups, with one dedicated to Seascape, Landscape and Visual Impact. All of the Working Groups are made up of representatives from relevant groups, statutory bodies and individual specialists. This Working Group helped us to establish eight proposed photo-montage locations to assess the project's visual impact.

At the second round of consultation in September 2013, we prepared indicative images for three turbine size and number combinations to illustrate what a theoretical wind farm could look like from the shoreline when viewed at a distance of 8km and 13km. We asked members of the public to state their preference, with over half the respondents stating that they preferred a layout with fewer, bigger turbines. Read more in the Round Two Consultation Summary Report.

The EIA will use tools such as photo-montages, wireframes and ZTV maps (Zones of Theoretical Visibility), to assess any effects that the potential wind farm would have on areas like the AONBs (Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and assess the visual amenity of specific receptors such as residential areas and scheduled ancient monuments. 


+ Isn’t the general consensus that wind turbines are ugly?

The visual effect of wind farms is a highly subjective issue. To some people wind turbines are elegant and graceful, to others they are not.

An independent opinion poll commissioned by the Mail on Sunday (October 2013) showed that 70% of people surveyed backed wind farms being built near them. Also a poll taken by ComRes for the Independent newspaper highlighted that 68% of the public believe that new wind farms are an 'acceptable price' to pay for green energy in the future. 

A majority of young people have been shown to be in favour of offshore wind; a survey carried out by the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills, and the Economic & Social Research Council in 2014 highlighted that 85% of 16-24 year olds support the development of offshore wind farms. 

As part of the Environmental Impact Assessment for this project a comprehensive seascape, landscape and visual impact study will be undertaken, and we established a Seascape, Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment Working Group in June 2013.

'Opinion Poll shows 70% in favour of wind farms near them', Renewable UK, October 2013
'Build more turbines:poll shows public want wind farms', The Independent, 4 June 2012  
'Public attitudes to science 2014'
, Ipsos MORI for the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills and the Economic & Research Council




+ How do Offshore wind farms affect birds?

Studies on ornithology are an important component of the First Flight Wind Environmental Impact Assessment; a dedicated campaign of surveys and data collection are being conducted to support data already available, and a Marine Ecology Working Group has been established.

Research carried out in 2012 by the RSPB, Scottish Natural Heritage and the British Trust for Ornithology looked at the impact of wind farms on 10 bird species at 18 wind farm sites in the UK. They found that there was minimal impact on birds from flying into rotating turbines. Wind energy projects are unlikely to be sited in designated or species rich areas and studies carried out at existing offshore projects show no significant effects on bird populations in those areas.

The RSPB stated that it 'supports a significant growth in offshore and onshore wind power generation in the UK' and that 'this growth can be achieved in harmony with, rather than at the expense of, the natural environment.' RSPB Scotland welcomed the rejection of Donald Trump's legal battle to challenge an offshore wind farm off the coast of Aberdeen (February 2014).' 

Natural Power carried out a survey on Robin Rigg offshore wind farm in 2013. The results showed little significant evidence that the construction and operation of Robin Rigg had any significant or permanent impact upon the marine life (including fish, birds and marine mammals) in the immediate or surrounding areas. 

The Telegraph, 'Wind Farms are not 'bird blenders' - RSPB' 12 April 2012
RSPB Wind Farms Policy (11/12/2012)
RSPB Scotland 'Welcome decision to reject challenge to wind farm off coast of Aberdeen' (11/02/2014)
Robin Rigg Marine Environment Monitoring Programme


+ What will First Flight Wind do to ensure wind farm construction won’t harm dolphins/seals?

Marine mammal surveys are an important component of the EIA; a dedicated campaign of surveys and data collection are currently being conducted to support data already available; Natural Power embarked on a boat-based bird and marine mammal survey on behalf of First Flight Wind within the wind resource zone in July 2013. Construction noise is considered to represent the most significant potential impact on marine mammals and assessment of noise will be undertaken using available techniques and recognised methodologies.

In July 2014, a study by international researchers from Britain, Holland and the US, discovered that offshore wind farms can be fertile feeding grounds for seals. Dr Deborah Russell, University of St Andrews commented: "Things like barnacles and mussels will settle on hard structures and then that in turn will attract other marine species and it builds up over time." Researchers analysed data from GPS tags used to track the movements of harbour and grey seals in the North Sea since 2008.

In October 2013 an extensive ecological study of the Alpha Ventus offshore wind farm in the German North Sea found no evidence of negative impacts on marine life. 

Natural Power carried out a survey on Robin Rigg offshore wind farm in Scotland. The findings showed little significant evidence that the construction and operation of Robin Rigg had any significant or permanent impact upon the marine life in the immediate or surrounding areas.

In June 2013, First Flight Wind established a Marine Ecology Working Group to address any relevant issues or concerns and to act as a forum for exchanging information with key stakeholders. 

The Independent, 'Offshore wind farms create 'reef effect' perfect for marine wildlife - especially seals' 29 July 2014 
ReNews, 'Alpha Ventus aces eco exam'
30 October 2013
Robin Rigg Marine Environment Monitoring Programme 

+ Will lobster, scallop, white fish or prawn fishermen be excluded from the area?

In the UK there is no legislation that automatically allows for total exclusion of fishing vessels within operational wind farms. Temporary exclusion of fixed gear will be required during certain survey work including geophysical and geotechnical survey. First Flight Wind will consult with fishermen prior to the surveys and information about mobilisation is currently provided through Notices to Mariners which can be accessed on our website. We also have a Fisheries Liaison Officer (FLO) John Hooper (John's details are below) to keep the fishing industry informed of our activities.

First Flight Wind does not propose to automatically exclude any type of fishing e.g. use of trawls or static gear from the operational wind farm. During construction, an exclusion zone will be set up for Health and Safety reasons. Once operating, smaller safety zones could be introduced around each wind turbine if there is an appropriate safety case. In general, static fishing equipment such as lobster pots can be deployed within the wind farm area, however the use of some types of mobile equipment such as trawls might not be appropriate for safety reasons. The decision on whether or not to deploy certain types of fishing gear within the operational wind farm is ultimately at the discretion of the fishermen.

First Flight Wind consults with fishermen as part of the EIA to identify issues that might arise with the project and explore potential solutions. We have established a Commercial Fisheries Working Group with individuals who represent the various fishing interests in Northern Ireland. This working group provides a forum for discussion where information relating to the project can be exchanged and members of the Working Group have the opportunity to voice any concerns or issues.

We have established a Fishermen's Bulletin (the first issue was published in December 2013) and a Fisheries Q & A which can be accessed in Downloads. If you have any fishing related questions, then feel free to contact our Fishing Liaison Officer, John Hooper on 01923 608 102 or email John

+ Will pleasure boats/yachts be excluded from the area around the turbines?

Small yachts and pleasure craft will be able to move through the wind farm, however safety zones around individual turbines could be put in place as a safety measure and to enable access for activities associated with the wind farm, such as Operation & Maintenance. During the EIA, relevant organisations such as RYANI (Royal Yachting Association NI) local sailing clubs and similar marine users will be consulted and their views considered in the project identification process.

Bringing the Electricity Onshore
+ Doesn’t a new wind farm mean we’ll need additional power lines?

Yes, new power lines will be needed to connect the offshore wind farm to the Northern Ireland Electricity Transmission Network (the grid).  Where it is environmentally and technically acceptable we will be using cabling rather than overhead lines for connection. 

+ Where will the electricity come ashore?

At this stage of the project it is too early to provide an exact location as First Flight Wind is looking at a number of options for bringing the cables ashore along the south east Northern Ireland coastline. The shoreline landing will depend on the where the project can connect to the existing Northern Ireland Electricity grid network, which is still to be identified. The exact location will be considered during the EIA, and selected based on local environmental sensitivities, suitable ground conditions and local consultations.

+ Where will the substation be?

The location of the onshore substation is primarily driven by the layout and design of the existing Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) grid network. First Flight Wind have already started consultations with SONI (System Operator for Northern Ireland) and NIE to identify the most suitable point to connect into the grid. These consultations are being supplemented by detailed environmental, electrical and engineering studies, and these findings will be presented at Information Days and discussed with local and national stakeholders. Following these activities First Flight Wind will select the most suitable location and conduct a full range of environmental studies, before submitting a request for planning consent.

+ Will energy produced by this project be conveyed by way of inter-connector to or from the rest of the UK?

No, the project will connect directly into the Northern Ireland transmission network and will make a contribution towards Northern Ireland's target of 40% of electricity from renewables by 2020. 

The Cost of Offshore Wind
+ Is offshore wind energy expensive?

Offshore wind energy costs are higher than onshore wind costs but the subsidy levels are reducing quickly and will reduce further. DECC published a Renewable Roadmap in July 2011 with subsequent updates in 2012 and 2013 which confirmed 'the Government's commitment to cost effective renewable energy as part of a diverse, low-carbon and secure energy mix.' It also stated that 'As offshore wind becomes a more mature technology and costs fall, it has the potential to play a very significant role in the 2020s and out to 2050 alongside other low carbon technologies.'

Critically, offshore wind energy will provide a hedge against future electricity price increases caused by the volatility in the prices for gas, oil, coal and nuclear we currently import into Northern Ireland. In August 2012, Energy Minister Foster confirmed that rates of support for offshore wind will reduce accordingly as technology matures over the decade. 

With regards the price the consumer pays for wind energy, Renewable UK has stated that it adds only 2% onto the average energy bill. That's less than 5p a day. 

UK Renewable Energy Roadmap, December 2013 Update
DETI Offshore Renewable Energy Action Plan, March 2012
Huffington Post, The Blog, Energy goes up the political agenda 14 October 2013 

+ Northern Ireland already has the highest level of fuel poverty in the UK, won't this project make matters worse?

The main cause of fuel poverty in Northern Ireland is the dependence on home heating oil, especially in rural communities. Increasing our use of renewable sources of energy makes Northern Ireland less at the mercy of volatile fossil fuel costs, and helps to provide a long-term hedge against future electricity price increases. If we continue to burn fossil fuels to generate electricity, our household bills in the future could be significantly higher than if we invest in new sources of cleaner energy like wind power.

In May 2013 Power NI, Northern Ireland's biggest energy company announced that it was set to increase its household electricity bills by 17.8%. Power NI Managing Director Stephen McCully commented, 'The fact is that so much is dependent upon world fuel costs, which are outside our control and which have a volatile effect on the price we pay for wholesale electricity.'  

The Home Energy Conservation Report (2013) stated that in Northern Ireland 'fuel poverty levels last measured in 2011 stood at 42% of households.' This is a reduction from 44% of households in 2009. However the report outlines that 'Whilst energy efficiency programmes are mitigating the impact of fuel poverty, on their own these programmes cannot eradicate it long term in the face of rising fuel prices.'  

In March 2013, DECC stated that the estimated average GB household gas and electricity bill was £1,267 a year. Of this, £112 is green taxes incorporating £62 support for the vulnerable and £50 for supporting cleaner energy.

Home Heating Oil Briefing, February 2012
Home Energy Conservation Report, NI Housing Executive 2013  
Power NI, May 2013 'Power NI price change'
DECC, March 2013, 'Estimated impacts of energy and climate change policies on energy prices and bills'

+ What is the life span of an offshore wind farm and how will it be decommissioned?

Offshore wind farms are expected to be operational for 25 years, so when it is time for the wind farm to be decommissioned, it will be removed and the materials recovered and recycled where possible. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment will introduce legislation similar to the rest of the UK that obliges an offshore project to be properly decommissioned with agreement up-front on the decommissioning procedures. This legislation is scheduled to come into force before this project is built.

Renewable energy
+ What is Northern Ireland’s renewables target?

The Northern Ireland Executive has set a target to obtain 40% of electricity from renewable sources of energy by 2020.

DETI Strategic Energy Framework, September 2010 

+ How much electricity do we use in Northern Ireland?

UREGNI's (Utility Regulator Northern Ireland) 2014 Energy Retail Report records that the Northern Ireland electricity consumption in 2013 was 8,078 GWhs (gigawatt hours) down on the 2012 consumption which was 8,209 GWhs. By the end of 2013, there were more than 843,000 electricity consumers in Northern Ireland (compared to 837,000 in 2012).

UREGNI Energy Retail Report 2014
UREGNI Energy Retail Report 201


+ What is the current amount of electricity made by renewables in Northern Ireland?

According to the 'Electricity Consumption and Renewable Generation in Northern Ireland: Year ending March 2014' for the 12 month period April 2013 to March 2014, 19.5% of total electricity consumption in Northern Ireland was generated from renewable sources located in Northern Ireland. This is an increase of 5.8 percentage points on the previous 12 month period.  

+ How much electricity could wind contribute?

RenewableUK stated that a single 2.5MW wind turbine can generate enough electricity to meet the annual needs of over 1,400 households, make 230 million cups of tea or run the average computer for well over 2,000 years.

In August 2014, RenewableUK confirmed that a record high of 22% of the UK's electricity was generated by wind on 17th August. The UK's onshore and offshore turbines generated an average of 5,797MW - enough to power more than 15 million homes at that time of year, according to the statistics from National Grid.  


+ How reliable is wind energy?

No energy technology can be relied upon 100% of the time. Wind energy can be relied upon, even though the wind is not available 100% of the time. Wind turbines generate electricity for 70-85% of the time, but not always at full output. The variable nature of the wind has minimal impact in comparison with the problems of meeting demand should one large power station breakdown. 

For the Walney Offshore Wind Farm extension project (Walney Offshore Wind Farm is located approx 15km off Cumbria in the Irish Sea) taking into account wind speeds and data collected from the exisitng Walney Offshore Wind Farm, it is expected that power will be produced at Walney extension 85% of the time. 

+ Is it not more important to address energy efficiency before wind energy?

The efficient use of electricity and fuel is as vital to the future of a healthy environment, energy security and job creation, as harnessing renewable sources of energy. The more energy efficient we become the further our renewable electricity will go.  Find out more about making your home, business or driving habits more energy efficient:

• Home
• Business 
• Driving:


+ How much carbon dioxide is being saved by wind energy?

An offshore wind turbine pays back the carbon used in its construction within 6-9 months of the turbine operating. Once operating a wind turbine produces few carbon emissions and electricity generated by wind energy offsets electricity that would have been produced by a fossil fuelled power plant that can emit significantly more quantities of carbon dioxide.

According to the National Grid, between April 2011 and September 2012 electricity generated by wind farms reduced the requirement for electricity from other sources by 23,707 GWh (Gigawatt hours), resulting in an estimated 10.9 million tonnes less CO2 being emitted. 

The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) stated that in 2020 wind energy will avoid 342 million tonnes of CO2, equivalent to taking 80% of the EU's car fleet off the road and avoiding CO2 costs of around 8.5 billion euro. 

IPPR, 'Beyond the Bluster' (August 2012) 
National Grid 2013 Scottish Parliament, Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee, National Grid  
EWEA Wind Energy Basics

+ What is the Northern Ireland carbon dioxide saving target and by when?

Climate change is one of Northern Ireland's most serious environmental, social and economic challenges. The Northern Ireland Executive has set a Programme for Government target to work towards a reduction in Greenhouse Gas emissions by at least 35% on 1990 levels by 2025.

Northern Ireland Executive Programme for Government 2011-15

+ How many jobs have been created in UK/NI by the wind energy sector?

In March 2014, Renewable UK reported that the British offshore wind industry already employs more than 12,800 people in direct and indirect jobs. Also their research shows that within the next ten years, that number could rise to as many as 44,000 jobs. By 2030, the UK offshore wind sector will need dozens of factories making innovative, hi-tech blades, turbine towers, cables and offshore substations.

During the 2 year construction phase of DONG Energy’s Walney wind farm off Cumbria, around £1 million per month was directly contributed to the local economy around Barrow-in-Furness. Post construction the operations and maintenance base provides full time employment for around 76 local people that are expected to be sustained over the estimated 25 year project lifetime.

The Guardian newspaper (March 2013) published an article 'Five jobs that didn't exist 10 years ago' which highlights how 'Offshore wind farm engineer' is one such new role.
You can find out more about Economic Opportunities on this website. If you are interested in potential opportunities for supplying goods and or services, Invest NI is currently compiling a database of local suppliers for different activities to meet the project's requirements. Please register with to express your interest.

RenewableUK (March 2014) 'Siemens' 1,000 job wind turbine manufacturing announcement is "a major coup for the British wind industry"




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