Windy Britain Powers Up More Offshore Windfarms

LONDON, United Kingdom, July 14, 2003 (ENS) - Offshore windfarms with the potential to power one in every six UK households were given the green light for development today by Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) released proposals for the next generation of offshore windfarms to provide up to six gigawatts of new energy generation by 2010, enough to power 15 percent of all households in the United Kingdom.

Hewitt said, "This announcement is good for the environment, good for Britain's energy needs and good for jobs. The expansion will create around 20,000 new jobs in manufacturing, installing and maintaining the windfarms.

Hewitt

Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt announced the new windfarm decision to a supportive public. (Photo courtesy UK government)
The energy produced will be enough to power more than 3.5 million households, or almost nine million people, more than the population of Greater London, twice that of Scotland and three times that of Wales.

Environmentalists were pleased with the announcement. Friends of the Earth's Energy spokesperson Bryony Worthington said, "We are delighted that the government has given the green light to this huge expansion in wind energy. It will create thousands of jobs and marks a sea change in UK energy policy."

A first round of offshore wind projects announced in late 2000 should result in about 500 turbines with generating capacity of 1,500 megawatts. Two of the projects are already under construction at North Hoyle near Rhyl, and at Scroby Sands near Great Yarmouth.

This more ambitious second round envisions windfarms in shallow waters of the Thames Estuary, the Greater Wash on the southeast coast, and the northwest coastal region. All are at least eight kilometers (five miles) from the shore. Some extend beyond the 12 mile zone of British territorial waters, so new legislation will be required before construction can start.

But the government is willing to do whatever it takes to facilitate the construction of the windfarms. "The Energy White Paper committed us to providing 10 percent of energy from renewable sources by the year 2010, and an aspiration to double that figure by the year 2020, said Hewitt. "This announcement represents a big step towards meeting our goals. Offshore wind has potential to provide a significant proportion of the UK's energy needs."

This second round of site leases for offshore wind farms will be informed by Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), the government said.

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Britain already has a functioning windfarm in Blyth Harbor, Northumberland. (Photo by Ian Britton courtesy FreeFoto)
The SEA Environmental Report was published on May 1, along with a consultation on the Environmental Report and the government's plan for windfarm development in the three strategic areas.

The sites were originally identified in November in the DTI's Future Offshore consultation, but have since been subject to rigorous environmental assessment to assess the impact of proposed development before sites could be offered for leasing.

Today Hewitt asked The Crown Estate to invite windfarm developers to tender for sites in all the areas. The Crown Estate is an estate in land which belongs to the British Sovereign and is managed for the benefit of the British taxpayers.

Site leases for the second phase of windfarms will be awarded in the autumn and construction is expected to begin in the next few years.

Public support for renewable energy in the UK is strong. A British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) opinion poll released today shows that 74 percent of bill payers surveyed support the increased used of wind power. An equal number of respondents back the government's target of generating 20 percent of electricity from renewables by 2020.

Marcus Rand, chief executive of the BWEA said, "This is fantastic news. We have the best offshore wind resource in Europe and today's announcement signals that we are now on track to seriously develop it."

"What's more," said Rand, "our opinion poll results today shows that today's proposed expansion in the use of wind energy comes with the support of the vast majority of the population."

"Successful projects from this round could account for over half of the government's 10 percent target and could be supplying clean electricity to some four million households by 2010," Rand said. "This is a win-win for the environment and the economy as it represents a fantastic opportunity to generate clean electricity and thousands of new jobs."

Friends of the Earth's Worthington says today's announcement should be just the beginning of a shift to sustainable energy in Great Britain. "We now need a similar commitment to harnessing the energy potential of biomass, waves, tides and the sun to replace dirty nuclear and fossil fuel dinosaurs."