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A Scotwind public meeting in May 2022

Since the 1990s, the islands have been beset by vast corporate interests, with many confusing initials, all of whom have been promising (or threatening, depending on your point of view) to bring vast amounts of sustainable electricity generation capacity to the isles, sometimes on land, sometimes from the sea.

Now another set of initials is joining the list.  This is ESB which has been Ireland's foremost energy company since it was established in 1927, which says it is driven by ”an unwavering commitment to power society forward and deliver a net-zero future for our customers and the communities we serve.”

This comes about because today (Wednesday May 10, 2023) Northland Power Inc. has signed definitive agreements with ESB for a 24.5% interest in its ScotWind portfolio (Spiorad na Mara and Havbredey).

For those many islanders who’ve lost track of this whole saga long ago, Spiorad na Mara is a proposed fixed-bottom offshore wind turbine project, located approximately 5 km off the west coast of Lewis at its closest point. With a potential capacity of around 840 megawatts (MW), it could meet the average annual electricity needs for around 760,000 Scottish homes with renewable electricity and save around 1.2 million tonnes of harmful CO2 emissions every year.

Meanwhile, Havbredey is a proposed floating wind turbine project, located approximately 35 km offshore to the north-west of Lewis. With a potential capacity of around 1,500 MW, it could meet the average annual electricity needs for around 1.3 million Scottish homes with renewable electricity and save around 2.2 million tonnes of harmful CO2 emissions every year.

Northland will retain a 75.5% stake in each project and continue to lead the development, construction, and operation of the projects.

Yet another series of public events on Lewis are being planned for June, where local communities and stakeholders can meet with members of the project team to ask questions, provide feedback, and receive the latest information. Further details will be shared over the coming weeks, the companies say.

Northland says that the partnership with ESB provides Northland with an opportunity to bring in an experienced long-term partner to help build on the development progress already made. All commitments made by the projects prior to the agreement will remain in place.

“This is yet another exciting milestone for Northland, Spiorad na Mara and Havbredey. With ESB, we have found a highly experienced and valued partner to help advance the development of the projects, and we look forward to working closely together to realise both projects over the months and years ahead,” said Tanya Davies, Project Director, ScotWind, Northland Power. “Our objective is to deliver projects which the Outer Hebrides can be proud of, with substantial benefits for the environment, and the local, regional, and national economies.”

“As global offshore wind leaders, we welcome ESB's offshore wind expertise and their experience of developing renewable energy projects in Scotland and look forward to working closely together on the successful delivery of both projects. This announcement builds upon the progress already made, to deliver locally produced clean offshore wind energy, which is at the heart of achieving Scotland’s net zero emissions target by 2045, “said David Povall, Executive Vice President Offshore Wind.

“The projects represent significant new energy infrastructure investment in Scotland, and we are fully committed to working in partnership with local communities and stakeholders throughout the development, construction and operation to maximise all opportunities available”.

Jim Dollard, ESB Executive Director, Generation and Trading, says the partnership with Northland creates a valuable platform for ESB to pool expertise with a like-minded partner and build on its considerable presence in Scotland.

“This is an important announcement for ESB as we deliver on our Net Zero targets which set out to decarbonise the electricity we generate by 2040,” said Dollard. “The Spiorad na Mara and Havbredey projects are an exciting opportunity to collaborate with a global partner in Northland, build on our extensive experience in Scotland and provide synergies and learnings for similar projects in Ireland.”

Northland Power is a global power producer, based in Toronto, Canada, and dedicated to helping the clean energy transition by producing electricity from clean renewable resources. Founded in 1987, Northland has a long history of developing, building, owning, and operating clean and green power infrastructure assets and is a global leader in offshore wind. In addition, Northland owns and manages a diversified generation mix including onshore renewables, efficient natural gas energy, as well as supplying energy through a regulated utility.

This addition of Spiorad na Mara and Havbredey projects brings ESB’s involvement to six offshore wind projects in Scotland, which complements a 1,200MW pipeline of onshore wind farms.

ESB operates across the electricity market, from generation through transmission and distribution, to supply of customers in addition to using their networks to carry fibre for telecommunications. ESB is a leading Irish utility with a regulated asset base of approximately €12.0 billion (comprising ESB Networks €9.7 billion and NIE Networks €2.3 billion), a 30% share of generation in the all-island market and supply businesses supplying electricity and gas to over two million customer accounts throughout the island of Ireland and Great Britain. During the year ended 31 December 2022, ESB Group employed an average of over 8,000 people