Northern Ireland’s environment minister Alex Attwood officially opened Simple Power’s first single wind turbine in Northern Ireland.

The minister cut the ceremonial ribbon for the medium wind energy company alongside farmer Jim McCord from Randalstown, County Antrim, who owns the land.

The 250kW turbine on McCord’s farm represents the first of 200 medium scale single wind turbines Simple Power is installing across Northern Ireland over the next four years that will collectively generate electricity for the equivalent of 50,000 local homes.

Simple Power has already started exporting power from this and a second turbine on a neighbouring farm this week. Electricity generated feeds into the Northern Ireland grid with the power purchased by Power NI – the region’s biggest electricity retailer – under a power purchase agreement.

Over 150 guests including members of the local community joined the Minister and Simple Power in what represented a milestone celebration for medium scale wind energy in Northern Ireland.

Environment minister Alex Attwood said, “Renewable energy and technology is our single biggest economic opportunity and our aim is to be a world leader in carbon reduction.

“Schemes like this turbine are an example of how we can use this island’s tremendous natural resources. They also demonstrate the significant potential for renewables to help aid economic recovery and to meet national and international obligations for renewable energy whilst protecting our environmental and cultural assets.

“I welcome that applications for renewable energy have doubled over the last four to five years and I am continuing to set challenging targets to speed up the planning process and assist economic recovery.

“It is crucial that we all work together to make the transition to a low carbon economy here in the north. Developments such as this here today, together with legislation I wish to bring forward on climate change, are examples of positive steps in the right direction.”

Simple Power’s chief executive, Paul Carson said, “We are grateful to the minister for opening our first wind turbine and for his ongoing commitment to wind energy. Northern Ireland has vast natural resources and we believe medium scale wind development has a very important role to play in creating a new electricity market here. This is essential to ensure a secure energy supply for the future at an affordable cost to the consumer while also reducing carbon emissions.”

“This opening is a celebration of all the hard work that has gone into the development of our strategy over the last two years. We are very proud to be supporting rural farming families like Jim’s and working in partnership with landowners in renewable generation. This is also a very important milestone for Simple Power as a business as it represents our transition from a development company to a provider of renewable energy.”

The support and growth of renewable energy in Northern Ireland is providing a real dividend in terms of jobs in the sector, ranging from highly skilled engineering, construction and maintenance to those being generated across a very wide local supply chain. Simple Power recently recruited the first members of its maintenance and engineering team, who will professionally service and maintain its wind turbines over the next 25 years.

A delegation from global wind turbine manufacturer, Vergnet, travelled from their manufacturing base in France to attend the launch event. The company’s mid-range 250kW wind turbines are being used exclusively by Simple Power as it continues its roll-out strategy that will contribute to Northern Ireland’s renewable energy target of 40% by 2020.