ALOK JHA, The Guardian, October 21, 2008
The United Kingdom now leads the world in generating electricity from offshore wind farms, the government said today as it completed the construction of a farm near the coast off Skegness, Lincolnshire.
The new farm, built by the energy company Centrica, will produce enough power for 130,000 homes, raising the total electricity generated from offshore wind in the UK to 590 megawatts (MW), enough for 300,000 UK homes.
The completion of 194MW of turbines at Lynn and Inner Dowsing means that the UK has overtaken Denmark, which has 423MW of offshore wind turbines.
“Offshore wind is hugely important to help realize the government’s ambition to dramatically increase the amount of energy from renewable sources. Overtaking Denmark is just the start,” said Mike O’Brien, a minister at the Department of Energy and Climate Change. “There are already five more offshore windfarms under construction that will add a further 938MW to our total by the end of next year.”
But despite today’s announcement, the UK is still near the bottom of the European league table when it comes to harnessing renewable energy, campaigners say.
Nick Rau, Friends of the Earth’s renewable energy campaigner, said: “The government must stop trying to wriggle out of European green energy targets and put a massive effort into making renewable power the number one source of energy in the UK. The UK has one of the biggest renewable energy potentials in Europe – this must be harnessed to make this country a world leader in tackling climate change.”
Maria McCaffery, the chief executive of the British Wind Energy Association, was enthusiastic but also urged more government action. “We are now a global leader in a renewable energy technology for the first time ever. Now is the time to step up the effort even further and secure the huge potential for jobs, investment and export revenues that offshore wind has for Britain.”
Greenpeace chief scientist, Doug Parr, said the only downside was that many of the turbines for the UK windfarms were being manufactured abroad. “We need a green new deal for renewable energy, creating tens of thousands of new jobs and providing a shot in the arm to the British manufacturing sector. If the government now diverts serious financial and political capital towards this project it will put Britain in pole position to tackle the emerging challenges of the 21st century.”
The UK currently gets 3GW of electricity from wind power, but 80% of that is from onshore farms. On Tuesday, the Carbon Trust detailed its plans to accelerate the development of offshore wind in the UK. The trust plans to work with major energy companies on a £30m initiative to cut the cost of offshore wind energy by 10%.
“The UK has an amazing opportunity not just to lead the world but to be the dominant global player,” said Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust. “Our research shows that by 2020 the UK market could represent almost half of the global market for offshore wind power. To make that happen it will be critical to improve the current economics of offshore wind power.”