14 July 2003 – UK trade minister Patricia Hewitt today approved licences for up to 6GW of offshore windfarms. The windfarms, which would provide up to 15 per cent of the country’s power needs, are split between three shallow water coastal areas: the Thames Estuary, the Greater Wash (north of East Anglia), and North West England.
Hewitt said she had instructed Crown Estates to invite windfarm developers to tender for sites in all the areas, the second round of licences to be offered.
“This announcement is good for the environment, good for Britain’s energy needs and good for jobs,” Hewitt said. “The Energy White Paper committed us to providing 10 per cent of energy from renewable sources by the year 2010, and an aspiration to double that figure by the year 2020.
Site leases for the second phase of windfarms would be awarded in the autumn, the trade and industry department said.
When built the new windfarms will produce more than ten times the power of all existing wind farms put together and will cost around £6bn ($9.75bn). They will amount to about 5 per cent of the total power needs of the UK.
Ms Hewitt said the move was widely supported by the public who agreed with the government that cleaner sources of energy were needed. “We have got the best wind resources in the whole of Europe and it is crazy that we are lagging behind countries like Germany and Spain and Denmark, when we have the great expertise in off-shore developments that we built up with North Sea oil,” she said in a BBC interview.
Environmental groups will welcome the move but some sites will face objections because of a possible impact on birds and wildlife. Objections may also come from the Ministry of Defence, which has, in the past, warned of the impact on radar defences.
The British Wind Energy Association ()BWEA) said it was “fantastic news”. Chief executive Marcus Rand said: “We have the best off-shore wind resource in Europe and today’s announcement signals that we are now on track to seriously develop it.
“No single country has as yet established itself as a clear leader in offshore wind: the UK has an existing infrastructure and expertise in the offshore sector, which could readily be converted to harness the power of the wind, ” said BWEA Chairman Alan Moore.
National Wind Power, which is currently building the country’s first large scale off-shore wind farm off the Welsh coast, described the move as “a serious commitment”. However, he warned electricity bills could rise as a result. “There will be a cost to renewable energy. Renewable energy is more expensive than gas-fired because gas prices are very low at the moment,” he said.
Today’s announcement is the second round of licence awards. Round one was announced in December 2000 and resulted in the commencement of a number of projects, all limited to 30 turbines. The new developments will be on a much larger scale. Since the first round of awards new wind turbine technology has been developed with the first 3 MW turbine now in commercial testing.
All of the new developments will be a minimum of 8km offshore with to reduce the impact on the environment and limit the visual impact.