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Windfarm aims to export power to UK in multibillion euro deal

Mainstream Renewable Power, the energy company founded by former Bord na Mona chief executive Eddie O'Connor, has advanced plans for a major multibillion euro project to export wind power from Ireland to the UK.

Mainstream said yesterday that it has inked a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Britain's National Grid and Portugal's REN to complete a pre-feasibility study for the development, financing, construction and operation of a 5,000-megawatt electricity transmission system.

The 'Energy Bridge' project is intended to export power from a planned windfarm in the midlands to the UK.

Mainstream is hoping to submit plans for the massive project to An Bord Pleanala by 2015.

It wants the first phase of the project, involving 1,700 megawatts of windfarm capacity, to be exporting energy by 2017.

Mainstream is already involved in negotiations with land-owners in the midlands.

About 5,000 people are expected to be employed in the construction phase and 500 people in permanent roles once the project is completed. The interconnector would involve undersea cables between Ireland and Wales.

Mr O'Connor -- who made millions from the sale of Airtricity in 2008 -- said yesterday's MOU marked a "major milestone".


"We are now putting a team of experts together in order to conduct comprehensive feasibility studies and a business plan," he said.

"This will be the precursor to the companies forming a joint venture to develop, build, finance, own and operate the system. This has never been done anywhere in the world and Mainstream is very excited to be leading such a ground- breaking project."

The chief executive of National Grid, Steve Holliday, said the energy scheme had the makings of a "really exciting project".

A spokesman for Mainstream declined to say when the pre-feasibility study might be completed.

Mr O'Connor also showcased the planned windfarm and interconnector yesterday to Mainstream shareholders -- largely private clients of NCB -- at a Dublin hotel. The shareholders were also there to hear details of a €60m loan agreement Mainstream has just signed with Macquarie Group.

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Mainstream has also raised a further €16.8m from other investors and is planning to raise additional equity.

The money will be part-used to develop the 'Energy Bridge' project. Mainstream has also applied to build a 450-megawatt windfarm off Scotland and is involved in additional schemes in the UK and Germany.

Mainstream is also poised to begin work on a 138-megawatt windfarm in South Africa and two solar projects in the country.

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