British Plan Major 'Wind Farm' to Generate Power Along Coasts
By HEATHER TIMMONS
The New York Times
Published: December 19, 2003
LONDON, Dec. 18 Energy companies plan to erect more than 1,000 turbines off England's coast in a $12.4 billion project to build the largest source of wind energy.
The wind farms, which received preliminary approval on Thursday, would generate as much as seven gigawatts of electricity enough to supply four million households, or to meet 7 percent of Britain's energy needs. Britain has pledged that 10 percent of its energy will come from renewable resources by 2010.
The Crown Estate, which controls British public lands, including its seabeds, asked companies to submit bids for coastal wind farms in July.
Royal Dutch/Shell, Warwick Energy, Powergen and Total are among companies that won leasing rights of up to 50 years for the project, which involves 15 sites and is expected to start generating electricity in 2007.
The project is vast. Groups of hundreds of turbines will be installed in the shallow waters of the Thames Estuary, in the East Coast area known as the Greater Wash, and off the northwest coast of England.
"This is a massive development for our industry," said Marcus Rand, chief executive of the British Wind Energy Association. "This puts the United Kingdom in the fast lane to becoming a world leader in offshore power generation."
Before they can start building, energy companies need clearance from the public and the government, including environmental regulators. The turbines will be visible from the shore only on very clear days, the companies said, so that public outcry, at least about the view, is expected to be minimal.
The project's biggest obstacle may come in the form of a small waterfowl related to the American loon, the red-throated diver, which feeds in and around some of the sites. The Royal Society for the Preservation of Birds issued a cautionary statement on Thursday, asking the government to make sure the wind farms do not pose a "significant threat to birds."
Little definitive research has been done on the effect of offshore wind farms on the bird population.
"We're in a sort of Catch-22, because we have to prove that this project is not a danger to birds" but there is no project of its size to compare it to, said Peter Crone, a director of Farm Energy, a renewable energy specialist that is one of the winning bidders.
Of course, birds have died after colliding with turbines. "Clearly, birds have been flying into things for hundreds of years, and that hasn't caused any extinctions," said Dr. Mark Avery, director of conservation for the bird preservation group, one of the strongest environmental lobbies in Britain, one that supports renewable energy, including the development of large, offshore wind farms.
But, he pointed out, it might not make great sense "to construct a large number of objects where large numbers of birds are already flying."
Big boost for offshore wind power
Reuters News Service
PlanetArk, dec. 19,2003
LONDON - Fifteen groups have successfully bid for sites to build wind farms off the English and Welsh coasts, some of which will be among the largest wind power projects in Europe with hundreds of turbines embedded on the sea floor.
The projects will be clustered in three areas of shallow sea and could provide enough electricity to power four million homes, or one in six of households.
The two largest sites, both at least 1,000 megawatts - the size of a conventional power station, have been proposed by groups involving utility E.ON's Powergen and National Wind Power, a unit of RWE Innogy.
Developing offshore wind power is a key part of the government's aim to boost renewable electricity supplies and cut greenhouse gas emissions, which many scientists blame for causing global warming.
"We have been delighted by the overwhelming number and very high quality of the bids we received," Frank Parrish head of the Marine Estate, at the Crown Estate said in a statement.
The Crown Estate is the land owner of the seabed and grants leases for companies to build offshore wind schemes.
This is the second round of offshore wind licences. Britain has a target of producing 10 percent of its power from green sources by 2010, up from three percent currently.
A spokesman for the Crown Estate said it had received 27 applications for projects but there was considerable overlap between many of the schemes.
The sites chosen are in three areas - the Thames Estuary, the Greater Wash off the east coast and along the north-west English and north Wales coast - with the potential capacity of 5.4 gigawatts and 7.2 gigawatts.
The range reflects the fact developers have flexibility to decide the final size of their projects although they must produce at least 75 percent of a site's generating capacity.
The British Wind Energy Association said this second wave of wind farms could produce half of the 2010 green energy target but schemes had to move ahead rapidly.
"It is critical that we ensure...these projects quickly obtain consents and the necessary finance to ensure they are built on time," Marcus Rand, chief executive of the association, said in a statement.
Wind farm developers have complained about difficulties in obtaining finance because of investors' doubts about the government's long-term energy policy.
In an effort to dispel this uncertainty, the government recently announced it would raise the quotas in its green power support scheme by five percent to 15 percent by 2015.
Story Date: 19/12/2003