The UK’s first purpose built offshore wind logistics facility is under construction at Belfast Harbour.
The Belfast Harbour D1 development consists of a 480 metre deepwater quay supported by a 50-acre hinterland.
The £50 million project is entirely self-funded by Belfast Harbour Commissioners, the port authority which manages and operates Belfast Harbour. The leading Danish Utility, DONG Energy, will then use the facility to assemble turbines and foundations for use in a number of its wind farm projects in the Irish Sea. The first of these projects is the West of Dutton Sands Offshore Wind Farm, located off the coast of Cumbria.
Main contractor Farrans Construction is carrying out the Belfast Harbour D1 project, which was designed by Doran Consulting. Construction began in August 2011 and is scheduled for completion in October 2012.
Belfast Harbour Commissioners Commercial Manager, Michael Robinson, said:
“The offshore wind industry has two key requirements when looking for new sites: large areas of land and immediate access to an unrestricted deep water shipping channel. Belfast Harbour D1 is one of the few sites in the whole of the British Isles that ticks both of these boxes and DONG Energy quickly saw that we had a huge advantage over other highly competitive sites across the UK even though geographically we’re not the closest to its wind farm locations.”
He added: “We were also able to demonstrate to DONG Energy that we had a very streamlined planning process with a number of existing stakeholder relationships already in place. As a result, we were able to turn the planning element of the project around within six months.”
Approximately 1 million tonnes of aggregate is being used on the site to create the hinterland section of the development that will store wind turbine components. The aggregate will be placed on top of a layer of geogrid, which is a geosynthetic material that is used to reinforce soils and materials and provide load bearing capacity. A stone base has also been constructed on the seabed to offer protection to quay structure when the installation vessels jack up at the quay.
Michael Robinson said: “The turbines and components that we are handling are huge in size and weight, so the loading requirements of the quayside relieving slab are substantial. A standard quay at most harbours would have a loading capacity of approximately 5 tonnes per square metre; however the D1 relieving slab will support loads of up to 15 tonnes per square metre, three times the strength of a usual dockside.”
He added: “With so many projects in the Irish Seas within the D1 site’s natural catchment area, we have great aspirations for this development and with DONG Energy being the world’s number one offshore wind developer, we couldn’t be working with anyone better to realise those aspirations.
“The work taking place here includes a number of firsts for the industry, meaning that Belfast is now well positioned to become a leading hub in the UK for renewable energy.”