Conference Report UK: Conference Digest

4 GW Milestone

The first 50 MW phase of Dong Energy's Gunfleet Sands offshore wind farm was one of the projects that inched the UK over the 4 GW wind capacity milestone. EDF Energies Nouvelles' 38 MW Longpark wind farm and ScottishPower's 30 MW Dun Law extension also helped the UK to complete its latest gigawatt of wind capacity in less than a year. This compares with 14 years to install the first gigawatt, 20 months for the second and 18 months for the third. Wind is now powering 2.3 million homes and the pace of development is speeding up, BWEA chief executive Maria McCaffery announced at the conference. She predicted that next year will see the installation of two more gigawatts. "And we are expecting to overtake nuclear energy with 12-13 GW by 2012," she said. BWEA president Adam Bruce added that achievement of the fourth GW in the teeth of the UK's worst recession in a generation was an indication of the maturity and resilience of the sector. "With the 9 GW of projects that have planning consent, or that are already in construction, the wind sector is almost halfway to delivering its share of the 2020 targets," he said.

Skills Summit

Leading figures from the wind industry, government and academia have launched a route map to train up to 60,000 new technicians and engineers for the wind and renewables sector. At the BWEA's first-ever skills summit, held at its annual conference, the bosses of UK-based businesses, such as RWE npower renewables, signed up to the Wind and Renewables Skills Sector Accord. It calls for a commitment to develop a national renewable energy apprenticeship programme and provide information on entry routes into the sector. BWEA chief executive Maria McCaffery said that if just 50% of the manufacturing for the next generation of offshore wind farms takes place in the UK, the industry would grow tenfold from just 6000 jobs today to 60,000 by 2020. But already the industry is suffering from an evermore acute shortage of qualified technicians and engineers. Former government minister Lord Whitty, who chaired the summit, noted that skills shortages has been one of the barriers to rapid deployment of wind power. "There is a real commitment to resolve the situation from all parties," he said.

Facts & Figures

Many newcomers to the wind industry were among the 3800 people who flocked to BWEA31 - the highest attendance ever for a UK wind conference. The three-day event was held in the Arena and Convention Centre on Liverpool's historic waterfront. In the exhibition halls, a record 217 companies demonstrated their products and services. Notable for its absence from the exhibition, however, was Vestas. The turbine manufacturer was keeping a low profile following the furore surrounding its closure this summer of its last manufacturing facility in the UK - its blades factory on the Isle of Wight. Entry to the exhibition was free on the third day, coinciding with the BWEA's first careers fair. Some 400 people packed the fair in which 23 potential employers, education bodies and recruitment specialists exhibited.

Conservative Promise

Opposition energy spokesman Charles Hendry sought to distance the Conservative Party from anti-wind opinions voiced by shadow business secretary Ken Clarke. At a policy exchange forum held at the same time as the BWEA conference, Clarke expressed his dislike of onshore wind (see Windpower Monthly, November 2009). "My view is that those few wild and open spaces that we have left in Britain should not be used for wind turbines," Clarke was quoted as saying. He added that wind farms should only be sited offshore, where they were less obtrusive. Hendry assured delegates that Clarke's comments did not represent official Conservative Party policy. He read out a statement from shadow energy and climate change secretary Greg Clark insisting that the party supports more energy from renewables - including onshore and offshore wind. As a result of pressure from his party, Clarke later retracted his remarks. "I was expressing an off-the-cuff view as a layman and not as a party spokesman on this subject," he said. "There is no change in Conservative Party policy."

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