Northern Ireland

Power company plan to conserve wildlife

Sand Martin feeding their young at Kilroot ash bank
Image caption Sand martins have colonised part of one ash bank, burrowing into it to raise their young

Northern Ireland's biggest power company has published a plan to improve the habitat for wildlife on its sites.

AES UK and Ireland runs the electricity generation stations at Kilroot near Carrickfergus and Ballylumford near Larne.

There are 70 protected or priority species on the two sites, including Irish hares, badgers and various plant species.

A large colony of sand martins also nests at the Kilroot site.

Image caption Kilroot uses coal to generate power

The coal-fired power station generates ash as a by-product, which has been contoured into banks on the site.

The sand martins have colonised part of one bank, burrowing into it to raise their young.

Image caption Kilroot Power Station near Carrickfergus

The company is in a partnership with Ulster Wildlife and funds a biodiversity officer, Monika Wojcieszek, who liaises with staff and schoolchildren who come onto the site.

Image caption AES says it has a plan to manage its sites for wildlife

Future plans include creating more species-rich grassland and encouraging workers to help conserve the wildlife on the sites.

Coal is not a long term option for power generation and change will come to Kilroot as the company reacts to new emissions legislation.

Image caption company president Ian Luney said he hoped that other companies would see that nature and industry can co-exist

Company president Ian Luney said that while the power stations generate emissions, AES UK & Ireland's wildlife policy was "creating the value around our sites that wasn't immediately obvious".

He hopes other companies will see that nature and industry can co-exist, he said.