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U.K. Government to Fund Offshore Wind Innovation Center

Wind energy will benefit from two completely separate initiatives that the U.K. government has agreed to help fund: an innovation center for offshore energy and a "green" bank.

The government has announced a decision to invest in an offshore renewable energy technology and innovation center to help British businesses commercialize wind, wave and tidal power.

“The UK has world-leading expertise in offshore engineering and understanding of our seabed and marine environment,” the government’s Technology Strategy Board said. “This has given us a worldwide reputation in offshore facilities and makes the UK an excellent base for offshore research.” 

Indeed, the U.K. accounted for more than half of the global offshore market in 2010, installing 653 MW, according to Stefan Gsänger, Secretary-general of the World Wind Energy Association. Offshore represented 26 percent of the country's total wind capacity and 59 percent of that was added last year.

The offshore energy research program is part of the U.K. government’s £200 million ($330 million) commitment to establish an “elite” network of innovation centers to support local high-tech industries and help them bring their new innovations to the market.

Last year, Prime Minister David Cameron unveiled plans to create at least six elite tech centers. Offshore energy, the third center to be announced, follows one for cell therapy and another for manufacturing. 

The centers will receive funding over a four-year period. In addition to providing in-house research, they will provide access to skills and equipment to companies that aim to pursue their own research, and also network closely with universities and other research institutions in the country.

The offshore power center is expected to open next year, following a formal bidding process to begin this summer.

RenewableUK, the country’s leading wind and marine energy trade association formerly known as BWEA, welcomed the government’s announcement.

“This is a clear indication that the Government has recognized the importance of supporting wind and marine energy,” said Gordon Edge, RenewableUK’s director of policy. “Investment in ambitious R&D projects like this is a key part of the package of measures needed to attract companies from around the world to the U.K.”

The investment in the elite network of innovation centers is a key component of the £325 million UK Innovation Investment Fund (UKIIF), which supports businesses working on energy efficiency, water treatment and conservation, alternative energy generation and renewable energy infrastructure. 

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg confirmed that Britain’s Green Investment Bank plans to begin making investments from April 2012. Clegg said the “early priorities” of the bank will be to invest in “offshore wind, waste and non-domestic energy efficiency.”

The bank, a central plank of Prime Minister Cameron’s green growth strategy, is to receive £3 billion in funding from the government, with the rest, £15 billion, to come from the private sector. The bank will act initially as a fund unable to borrow until 2015.

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