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United Kingdom

Hugely ambitious offshore pitch

An ambitious project to build a 200-turbine deepwater offshore wind farm has received a research grant worth £388,000 from the Scottish Executive and the UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). Canadian oil company Talisman Energy and electricity company Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) plan to build the 1000 MW wind farm costing £1 billion next to Talisman's Beatrice oilfield in the Moray Firth to the north-east of Scotland.

The project intends to site wind turbines in water depths as much as 40 metres, around 25 kilometres from shore. It would use the ageing oilfield's existing infrastructure as an operations hub. If built, the turbines could provide half the new renewables power needed to meet the Scottish government's target of 40% of all electricity from renewables.

The project has already received research money from DTI, which co-funded with SSE a design fabrication and installation study. This was to develop the structural concepts to install wind farms in deep waters. The latest grant money will be used to fund a front end engineering design study (FEED) to develop and provide a cost estimate for two full scale demonstration turbines. Dependent on the outcome of the FEED study, Talisman hopes to proceed in 2005 to the next phase of testing the turbines alongside the Beatrice oilfield.

The funding announcement, by Scotland's first minister Jack McConnell, was accompanied by a blaze of publicity -- mostly generated by the Scottish Executive. McConnell flew out by helicopter to the Beatrice oil platform along with the chief executive of SSE and the UK head of Talisman. McConnell stressed the technology's potential for exports and for creating hundreds of jobs in the north. He added: "Opening up Scotland's seas, even in the deep and difficult waters of the North Sea, will genuinely make us world leaders in renewable energy -- just as we are among the world's leading oil and gas producers."

While welcoming the funding, Talisman's Paul Blakeley warns there are many hurdles. It is now seeking further funding from the EU, DTI and Scottish Executive to build the prototype turbines.

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