UK: Major new drive for offshore wind power


The government opened a major new phase on Wednesday in its drive for renewable energy, calling for bids to build up to 25 gigawatts of offshore wind turbines, triple the amount in the pipeline.

The announcement by the government agency, the Crown Estate, which owns the seabed surrounding the country was welcomed by British Wind Energy Association chairman Adam Bruce as “impressively bold.” Under rounds one and two of offshore renewable power generation leasing program a total of 8 gigawatts of wind turbines are under development. Round three announced on Wednesday would raise that to 33 gigawatts, equivalent to one quarter of the country’s electricity supply. “The expansion of wind energy is already a real success story for the UK. We will shortly become the leading country in the world in terms of the number of wind farms operating offshore. The potential for round three will add to that success,” said Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks.

The BWEA said that if round three met its goal it would mean some 5,000 more wind turbines being built in the 11 sites around the coastline identified by the Crown Estate. Rob Hastings, head of the Crown Estate’s marine section, said he anticipated investment of £60 billion to 80 billion would be necessary to achieve the round three goal. To help the process the Crown Estate will meet up to half the pre-construction costs, including getting planning consents and enabling works to speed delivery. It would not be involved in construction or operation. Potential applicants, which may be individual firms or consortiums, will bid for licenses on the 11 sites which range from north eastern Scotland to Cumbria with the winner being granted sole development rights on the site.


Hastings said he anticipated the bidding and approval process to end by 2015 with construction to be completed by 2020, the European Union’s target date for 20% of the bloc’s energy to be coming from renewables. Britain’s share of this is set to be around 15% and the BWEA has said that would mean the country getting up to 40% of its electricity from wind by that date, a goal it said is tough but achievable. “We are on the cusp of phenomenal growth,” said CEO Maria McCaffery at the association’s annual offshore wind conference in London on Wednesday.

The association said that such was the growth of on and offshore wind power that within five years it would provide more electricity than nuclear power as the country’s aged nuclear plants are retired. Nuclear power provides 19% of the country’s electricity, a percentage that is set to decline rapidly in the next few years in the absence of the new build the government says the country urgently needs. (Reuters)

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