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United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Wind in a new league off British coast -- Big name companies and big scale offshore projects

Site licences for 15 offshore wind projects totalling between 5.4 and 7.2 GW of capacity have been awarded in the ambitious and much anticipated second round of UK offshore wind development. The sites are located in three strategic areas of shallow seas: the Thames Estuary, the Greater Wash -- both off the eastern coast of England -- and the Northwest.

The projects are nearly all on the scale of conventional generation, if not bigger. They include the world's largest proposed offshore wind farm -- 1.2 GW comprising some 250 turbines. Three of the sites are fully outside the UK 12 mile territorial limit. New legislation is planned in the Energy Bill currently going though parliament to allow development beyond UK waters.

The successful bidders were chosen through competitive tender. The Crown Estate -- landowner of the UK seabed -- is offering project developers an option on their proposed sites. When they have secured all other consents, they will be granted a 40-50 year lease. According to the Crown Estate's Frank Parrish, an "overwhelming number" of high quality bids were received. Many had to be weeded out because of overlapping applications for some sites.

Most of the developers already have track records in offshore wind development -- nearly all from the UK's first offshore round. National Wind Power has secured two second round licences for the largest project at Triton Knoll in the Greater Wash, and a 750 MW project at Gwynt y Mor, near its existing North Hoyle offshore wind farm off the north Wales coast. The second largest project, the 1000 MW "London Array," is being developed by a consortium of Powergen Renewables, Shell WindEnergy and CORE -- a joint venture between Danish utility Energi E2 and small English wind developer Farm Energy. Renewable Energy Systems maintains its partnership with nuclear generator British Energy in the development company Offshore Wind Power, which plans to build 250 MW next to its existing Inner Dowsing project off the coast of Lincolnshire.

interested parties

Other companies already with UK offshore interests include British AMEC which has teamed up with UK gas supply giant Centrica for two sites, ScottishPower, English United Utilities, Global Renewable Energy Partners -- a NEG Micon offshoot, and Warwick Energy. Warwick sold its first round Barrow project to a consortium which includes Danish energy group DONG and Norwegian state utility Statkraft. Now DONG and Statkraft plan a 450 MW wind farm near their Barrow project off Walney, Cumbria.

Newcomers to the UK include oil company Total, Evelop of the Netherlands, an offshoot of Dutch Econcern which is developing its Sheringham project with east-of-England offshore services company SLP Energy, and Irish wind energy developer and supplier Airtricity, which is currently building Ireland's first offshore wind farm using turbines from GE Wind. The smallest site licence went to Deltaic for a 64 MW extension to GE Wind's first round Gunfleet Sands project off the Essex coast. Deltaic, a small consultancy of ex oil industry players, is to project manage the 16 turbine extension in concert with GE Wind.

The British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) says the 15 projects should create thousands of jobs and could provide enough electricity for one in six UK households. Marcus Rand from the BWEA says: "These projects alone should help us achieve at least half the government's 10% by 2010 renewable target." The wind farms are expected to be producing power by the end of the decade.

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