United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Hand in hand with nuclear offshore -- Major wind developer teams up with British Energy

The UK's largest nuclear generator has joined forces with one of the country's leading wind energy developers to build offshore wind plant around the UK coast. Offshore Wind Power Limited is the new 50:50 joint venture company formed by British Energy, which supplies over 20% of the country's power -- more than any other company -- and Renewable Energy Systems (RES), part of the Sir Robert McAlpine construction group.

The pairing brings together British Energy's size, large-scale power generation and supply expertise with RES's wind energy experience and the offshore "pedigree" within the McAlpine group in building offshore oil and gas platforms, says Ian Mays from RES.

British Energy's move into offshore wind is its second attempt to diversify away from nuclear; last year it acquired a 2000 MW coal fired power station. It apparently sees wind as complementary to its nuclear business in providing cleaner power. As British Energy's chief executive Peter Hollins says: "Adding generation from wind energy to our nuclear portfolio means the company will continue to make an enormous contribution to the UK achieving and maintaining its climate change commitments." But British Energy's new found enthusiasm for offshore wind nonetheless sits oddly with the UK nuclear industry's long history of belittling wind's contribution.

Offshore Wind Power is one of the heavyweight contenders in the first round of applications for licences for seabed sites, due to be announced in May. It has lodged an application with the Crown Estate for a site lease for its first project. This is likely to have a capacity of at least 60 MW. "We are looking for the biggest project we can get through within the parameters laid down in this first round," says Mays. So far RES and British Energy are the only companies to come clean about their offshore ambitions. Few of the consortia who have applied for site leases admit their involvement or are revealing who they are partnering in the race to be among the first offshore.

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