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United Kingdom

Offshore steps up a gear in Britain -- All systems go for 500 MW build

Airtricity's parent company, Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE), will start construction on the 504 MW Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm off the east coast of England in summer 2009. Preparatory on-site work starts soon on the £1.3 billion wind power station in the North Sea, 25 kilometres off the Suffolk coast. SSE says it will be the largest offshore electricity plant in the world when complete. It is also the first of the UK's bigger offshore projects in the second round of site leasing to move to construction and the first to be built outside territorial waters.

Greater Gabbard has been developed so far as a 50-50 joint venture between Airtricity and major engineering company Fluor International Limited. SSE has awarded Fluor the £900 million construction contract covering the design, supply, installation and commissioning of everything but the wind turbines, and Fluor has agreed to sell SSE its half of the project for £40 million cash. SSE says it expects to sell 50% of the project equity later this year. Finance for its 50% share will either be done on balance sheet or through non-recourse project finance. It also expects its retail business to take 50% of the electricity output from the wind farm, with the remaining 50% to be sold to another power purchaser.

The Danish wind turbine division of Germany's Siemens Energy is lined up to supply 140, 3.6 MW machines for Greater Gabbard in an order worth about EUR 880 million, it says, including a five year service and warranty agreement. Siemens now has 1096 MW of turbines on order for four offshore projects in Britain, all using its 3.6 MW turbine, and 200 MW on order for one project in Denmark, using its 2.3 MW unit. More than 430 MW of Siemens offshore turbines are running today off the coasts of Denmark and Britain.

The Greater Gabbard turbines will be mounted on steel monopiles in water depths of between 24 and 34 metres. Three 132 kV cables are to bring the power ashore. The project will be commissioned in two phases and is expected to be complete in 2011. SSE says the wind farm will have a load factor of over 40% based on site wind speed data.

Paul Dowling of Airtricity says that Greater Gabbard is a landmark project for the company and for UK offshore development. "Our priority now is to deliver it in an efficient, focused and timely manner," he says. "We are actively planning further offshore projects in the UK and throughout Europe and the successful partnership approach that we have taken on Greater Gabbard will underpin our participation in the next round of offshore developments and beyond."

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