Renewable energy firm Gaelectric has pulled out of a public meeting to discuss a proposed new power station in Islandmagee.
The Dublin-based company – which wants to create a compressed air storage facility on the northern end of the peninsula – had initially accepted an invitation to attend a meeting hosted by Islandmagee Community Development Association on Thursday, October 22 in the community centre.
But the firm subsequently decided against taking part, with a spokesman explaining to the Larne Times: “At this point, as we are preparing to submit the planning application for the project . . . we feel that a meeting with a delegation from the Islandmagee Community Development Association would be a more effective format to discuss the project.
“We have already responded in writing to a number of questions raised recently by the Association and we have arranged a date in early November for this meeting and meetings with other focus groups to take place.”
Association chairman Robin McIlwain said he was “disappointed” by Gaelectric’s decision and added: “This public meeting would have been a useful way for local people to get answers to some of the questions they have about the project.”
Earlier this month, Gaelectric completed its seventh round of community consultation sessions in Larne and Islandmagee, giving the public a chance to have questions answered before the application is submitted for planning permission.
Meanwhile, the company has been urged to consider extending the length of its brine discharge pipeline in a bid to protect the local marine environment.
During the construction phase of the proposed project, storage caverns would be created within geological salt layers deep below the surface.
This process would produce a by-product known as brine, which would then be pumped into the sea off Islandmagee through a pipeline.
Alderman Gregg McKeen told the Times: “There are fears in the community that the brine will cause severe damage to local marine life.
“Also, the discharge point for the brine is not far from Muck Island, which is a bird sanctuary.
“Why not just extend the pipeline further out to into the sea where the brine will disperse quicker?”
Gaelectric has claimed the impacts on marine species and habitats will be “minor and short-term”, adding: “Once discharge ceases, salinity levels return to background levels within a number of tidal cycles.
“The localised aquatic environment will quickly return to its current status.”