Sheringham Shoal to go ahead

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The 315 MW Sheringham Shoal offshore wind farm is to begin construction this summer after Norwegian utility Statkraft agreed to take a 50% stake in the project off the English east coast. The stake was bought from Norway's oil and gas company StatoilHydro, which owned the entire project after buying out a 50% share held by Dutch renewables producer Evelop when it pulled out of the 50-50 joint venture -- known as Scira Offshore Ltd in autumn 2008. Since then, StatoilHydro has been looking for a strong partner. Statkraft stepped forward.

Siemens is to supply the 88, 3.6 MW turbines under a EUR 450 million contract which includes servicing the machines. They are being erected 17-23 kilometres off the town of Sheringham on the north Norfolk coast and cover an area of 35 square kilometres. The facility is to start operation in 2011. StatoilHydro will be the operator for the development phase.

The company's CEO, Helge Lund, says that developing a stronger position within renewable energy is part of StatoilHydro's long-term strategy. "Sheringham Shoal is a good commercial project that demonstrates our determination and capacity in this context," he says. Statkraft, through its hydro power plant, is already Europe's largest generator of renewable energy and has experience of onshore wind too, says Statkraft CEO Bård Mikkelsen. "The partnership with StatoilHydro will take us into the offshore wind industry as well -- which is in line with our core growth strategy."

The decision by the two Norwegian energy firms to proceed with the large project, which is being built under the second round of site licensing for offshore wind projects in the UK, contrasts with the positions adopted by other Round 2 developers. Large utilities E.ON and Centrica have put investments in large offshore projects on hold, complaining UK support is not enough to compensate for soaring costs. That attitude may have changed after the UK government's announcement of more support (main story).

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