London, UK [RenewableEnergyWorld.com] Thanks to its long coastline and maritime climate, the UK has the best wind resources in Europe, and some of the best in the world. Reflecting this, over the last few years the country’s wind industry has grown rapidly – reaching a capacity of more than 3.5 GW and becoming the global leader in offshore installations.
Since the first wind farm in the UK was built, at Delabole, Cornwall, in 1991, onshore wind energy has rapidly established itself as a mature, clean energy generating technology. Indeed, in 2007 wind energy overtook hydropower to become the largest renewable generation source in the UK, contributing 2.2% of the country’s electricity supply, with onshore wind comprising the bulk of this.
In May 2009 there were a total of 213 operational wind farms in the country with an installed capacity of 3585 MW, according to British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) figures. Of this total, some 3020 MW is onshore from 204 projects, and 566 MW offshore from nine operational projects. With some 1817 MW, more than half of the total is installed in Scotland, the bulk of which is onshore, while England leads in the offshore installation field, with 495 MW installed.
The scale of this growth was illustrated in October 2008, when Prime Minister Gordon Brown told that year’s British Wind Energy Association conference: ‘From just 1 GW of installed wind capacity in 2005, this week we will pass 3 GW. We have now overtaken Denmark as the largest producer of offshore wind in the world.’ Offshore now makes up some 20% of UK installed wind capacity.
In addition, there are 47 projects under construction with a combined output of 2686 MW, of this total 10 projects are offshore and are set to deliver a further 1774 MW. The largest of the offshore wind farms under construction is the 504 MW Greater Gabbard, due for completion in 2010.
There are a further 134 consented projects, eight offshore and 12 onshore, with a combined capacity of more than 6 GW and an additional 9 GW of wind projects in the planning system.
By the end of 2009, the UK is expected to have 1042 MW of offshore wind operating, almost doubling capacity in a year.
The European Commission Renewable Energy Directive establishes an overall binding target of a 20% share of renewable energy sources in energy consumption, to be achieved by each Member State, as well as binding national targets, by 2020. Under this ruling the UK is obligated to supply 15% of all energy from renewables by 2020.
The government’s related Renewable Energy Strategy states that the ambitious target of generating 15% of all the UK’s energy from renewables by 2020 means that 35%–45% of electricity will have to come from renewable sources, and the lion’s share of this capacity is expected to come from wind – some 33 GW. The BWEA estimates that one of the most expedient ways to achieve this target would be 13 GW of onshore wind, producing 34 TWh of electricity per year (10% of supply) and 20 GW of offshore installations, generating 61 TWh (17% of supply). Indeed, a December 2008 report from the Committee on Climate Change titled ‘Building a Low Carbon Economy’, stresses that wind can deliver 30% of the UK’s electricity supply by 2020.
The growth of the wind industry in the UK is taking place against the backdrop of the Renewables Obligation (RO) which requires electricity retailers to source an increasing amount of their electricity from renewable sources by buying Renewable Obligation Certificates from the generators of clean energy (up to 15% by 2015).
While the RO scheme has proved to be very successful in producing a swathe of onshore wind development, there remained significant concerns that without additional support, some emerging technologies (such as offshore wind) could find it hard to make the necessary progress. In the face of these concerns, the government has announced that it is to band the RO scheme from April 2009 in order to reflect the larger commercial risks associated with offshore development.
Thus, under the current proposals, offshore wind investments reaching financial close between now and 2011 will be supported – receiving two Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) per MWh they produce. Electricity supply companies had before received 1.5 ROCs for every MWh from offshore wind farms, but this rose to two for the financial year 2009–2010. It will then fall back to 1.75 in 2010–2011.
Industry welcomed the measure, which they say adds up to a potential of £525 million (€608 million) of new money. In 2008, the government also announced that the RO would be extended until at least 2037 and it is expected to support some £9 billion (€10.4 billion) of investment in renewables.
Alongside the RO, a number of other government support mechanisms have been announced, including the Low Carbon Energy Demonstration Fund (part of the Environmental Transformation Fund) which is aimed at accelerating the technology needed to see more large-scale multi-megawatt offshore turbines. Up to £10 million (€11.6 million) of funding will be allocated in June 2009.
Tackling growth barriers
However, despite these measures, a number of concerns remain, including the long-standing issue of connecting wind projects to the grid and the difficult financial climate and its implications for funding development projects, particularly those offshore. Indeed, oil majors Shell and BP have already pulled out of UK renewable energy projects, raising questions over the long-term prospects for the UK’s offshore wind sector.
Nonetheless, in addition to the changes to the Renewable Obligation, the 2008 Planning Act puts in place a faster system for dealing with planning decisions on nationally significant infrastructure projects for energy – including large-scale onshore renewables of over 50 MW, and 100 MW offshore – via an independent Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC).
The government has also announced that tenders for a new offshore energy grid regime will be launched in summer 2009. They say the new regime will ensure offshore cable connections are delivered on time and at reasonable cost to maintain an effective and secure grid.
Meanwhile, National Grid and Ofgem have published an accelerated timetable for the connection of an extra 450 MW of wind power into the grid and Ofgem are now proposing arrangements that will allow any project ready and able to connect to take advantage of an early connection date.
The Transmission Access Review, published in June 2008, also sets out a package of measures that will remove or significantly reduce grid-related access barriers to renewables. These measures include speeding up connections of projects that are ready to go, grid access reforms, setting out a vision for the network to 2020 and beyond, and puting in place incentives to ensure early delivery of new infrastructure.
As well as over-arching policy drivers, the European Commission is set to provide other support with a £4.3 billion (€5 billion) infrastructure support package that includes significant proportions for offshore wind and transmission system development.
Under the agreement, offshore wind projects, including grid integration developments, will receive funding, including the 1.5 GW North Sea grid which will receive £142 million (€165 million). It will include the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, Denmark, Belgium, France, and Luxembourg.
New turbines, structures and components, and optimization of manufacturing, will get a collective £215 million (€250 million) for three projects, including 340 MW of offshore demonstration capacity at the Aberdeen offshore wind farm. A joint venture between AREG (Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group) and Swedish utility company Vattenfall, the Aberdeen windfarm is also working towards gaining demonstrator status from the Crown Estate and will be getting £34 million (€40 million) in EU funding. The proposed wind farm could involve 23 turbines 1–3 miles (1.6–4.8 km) offshore.
Another offshore wind project that will be supported by the infrastructure fund is Thornton Bank, which features 5 MW turbines in waters of up to 30 metres. Offshore wind is to receive a total of £485 million (€565 million) under the scheme.
Meanwhile, in January 2009, a study of the UK’s shores, published as part of the DECC’s Offshore Energy Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), argued that there is scope for between 5000 and 7000 more offshore wind turbines, concluding that ‘there are no overriding environmental considerations to prevent the achievement of the offshore … wind elements of the programme.’
In parallel to the SEA process, in June 2008, The Crown Estate – owners of the UK seabed – launched its Round 3 leasing programme for the delivery of up to 25 GW of new offshore wind generation by 2020, in addition to 8 GW already planned in UK waters under the first two Rounds.
Round 1 invited applications to develop wind farms consisting of up to 30 turbines. If all 13 licensed farms are completed, they will have a combined capacity of around 1500 MW.
Round 2 of the Crown Estate’s licensing procedure threw the door open to wind farms of unlimited size, with 15 projects given initial approval, totalling 7169 MW (capable of providing around 7% of the UK’s electricity supply). Some of these projects, such as Triton Knoll and the London Array are very large indeed at more than 1 GW. Most of the Round 2 projects are clustered in three main areas, the Thames Estuary, the Greater Wash and the north-west of England.
The Crown Estate scheme is expected to result in quicker consenting and it initially identified 11 development zones which has since been refined to nine potential zones. These zones are still to be finalized, but once confirmed they will be allocated to nine company consortia bidders.
For instance, Airtricity, whose parent company is Scottish and Southern Energy plc, RWE npower renewables, the UK subsidiary of RWE Innogy, and two of Norway’s largest companies, Statkraft and StatoilHydro, have formed a consortium, called Forewind, to submit a joint bid.
By 2013 individual sites will start to receive planning permission, with the first phases of the new wind farms becoming operational in 2015. Earliest projects under Round 3 are expected to apply for consents any time from 2010.
And, in a ground-breaking move, The Crown Estate says it is to share development risks for prospective offshore wind projects, investing up to 50% of the cost of obtaining planning consents, including enabling works to address generic, zone-wide environmental concerns, consenting bottlenecks, supply chain constraints and grid connection issues.
In the April 2009 Budget, the government also unveiled a number of measures designed to improve the prospects for wind development, with renewable and energy projects standing to benefit from up to £4 billion (€4.6 billion) of new capital from the European Investment Bank, which the government says will remove blockages in project financing.
As required by the new Climate Change Act, the UK government has also announced measures to set a legally binding 34% reduction in emissions by 2020 with respect to 1990 levels, a new level of ambition for UK climate policy.
The first three five-year carbon budgets cover the periods from 2008 to 2022.
An industry on the up
With momentum in the UK wind sector growing and proposals in place to address long-standing development concerns, two significant events in 2009 apparently sealed the UK’s position as a key market for wind.
The massive 1 GW London Array offshore wind farm, which will itself supply 1% of UK electricity demand and will be the world’s largest such project when completed, will now move ahead after the developers agreed to progress the project. This flagship project had been in doubt after the 2008 withdrawal of Shell from the project, but Abu Dhabi renewable energy initiative Masdar stepped in to take a 20% stake in the development. Despite this, there remained some question marks over the financial viability of offshore wind technology until May 2009, when development partners E.ON, Dong and Masdar announced the go-ahead for the first phase of the offshore wind project. The companies plan to invest £1.9 billion (€2.2 billion) in building the first 630 MW phase of the wind farm, located 12 miles off the coasts of Kent and Essex in the Thames Estuary.
The announcement came after the government decision to increase RO support scheme, with the partners saying they are satisfied that the project is now financially viable. Onshore work is now due to start in summer 2009, with offshore work due to start in early 2011. They expect to begin commercial operations in 2012.
The wind farm, which forms part of the Round 2 group of offshore projects, will be installed on a 90 square mile (233 km2)site and will be built in two phases, the first of which will consist of 175 Siemens SWT-3.6 MW -107 turbines in water depths of up to 23 metres.
Commenting on plans to go ahead with the first phase of the wind farm, Friends of the Earth executive director Andy Atkins said: ‘The UK has the best offshore wind resource in Europe – ministers must ensure that more projects like this are developed so that Britain reaps the huge employment, business and environmental benefits of clean, green energy. This must include a new super-grid to ensure we get maximum benefit from offshore energy, and greater efforts to make sure that turbines are built in Britain – not imported from abroad.’ Nonetheless, Wolfgang Dehen, CEO of Siemens Energy Sector observed: ‘The outlook for the offshore market is positive. By improving the political framework, the UK government has laid the foundation for the continued expansion and investment in offshore wind energy. Projects are now more profitable and hence more attractive.’
The London Array announcement was immediately followed by the commissioning of Europe’s largest operating onshore wind farm, Whitelee wind farm, 9 miles (15 km) from Glasgow, Scotland.
The initial 140 turbines situated across the 21 square mile (55 km2) site are capable of producing up to 322 MW of electricity, and a proposal to extend this by another 130 MW has already been approved by the Scottish government. In addition, the developers – Iberdrola Renovables, the renewable energy arm of the ScottishPower parent group – is also carrying out scoping work on a potential second extension, which could add a further 140 MW to Whitelee. It is anticipated that an official planning application will be submitted for this in 2009 and would mean a total capacity of near 600 MW from the project.
The £300 million (€349 million) development included the construction of a new radar station for Glasgow Airport on the site of a disused power station in Kincardine, following concerns about potential technical issues as a result of the installation.
Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond, MSP, said: ‘Our potential for electricity generation from renewables is up to 60 GW – more than 10 times our peak demand.’
UK wind players
Thanks to the improving economics of onshore and offshore wind power, the social and environmental benefits associated with renewable generation projects and the RO, all of the so-called ‘big six’ electric utilities – ScottishPower, Scottish and Southern, Centrica, RWE npower, E.ON UK, EdF Energy – are developing wind farms and acquiring wind power portfolios, and such development takes a variety of guises.
In spring 2009, for instance, ScottishPower Energy Networks completed a £7 million (€8.2 million) project to connect the 48 MW Aikengall wind farm to the electricity grid in the Dunbar area. ScottishPower Renewables is currently co-developing the 500 MW West of Duddon Sands offshore wind project and announced a partnership with Vattenfall for joint bids in Round 3 of offshore wind farm development in the UK.
Meanwhile, Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) has already started construction work in the outer Thames Estuary of Greater Gabbard, a joint venture with RWE Innogy, which, on completion, is expected to have a capacity of 500 MW. It will be commissioned in two phases, with the first phase generating electricity from 2010 and the entire construction scheduled to be completed in 2011. SSE has also been granted consent by Scottish ministers to develop the Clyde project in southern Scotland with a total capacity of up to 456 MW. The wind farm will be built in two phases and is located between Biggar and Moffat. The wind farm will eventually have up to 152 turbines of 3 MW each, and construction work is expected to begin in 2009 with first commissioning scheduled for 2010
In September 2008, Centrica gained government consent for its proposed 250 MW Lincs offshore wind farm project, 5 miles (8 km) off the coast east of Skegness. If built, it would be situated next to the company’s Lynn and Inner Dowsing. Centrica is also exploring two further wind farms in the Greater Wash at Docking Shoal and Race Bank, totalling 1000 MW. And, proposals for a 750 MW offshore wind project that would be developed off the UK’s North Wales coast have also been granted government approval. The world’s second largest offshore wind farm, the so-called Gwynt y Môr, is being developed by npower Renewables.
Wind developments are also being driven by less obvious sources. In October 2007, UK telecoms major BT unveiled plans to develop wind farms for up to 25% of its existing UK electricity requirements by 2016. The £250 million (€289 million) project, which will bring together third party funding and renewable energy partners, could generate a total of 250 MW. BT is currently identifying high wind-yield sites and has applied for planning for test masts at Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station in Cornwall, Wideford Hill Radio Station in Orkney and Scousburgh Radio Station in Shetland.
Subject to planning consent, a total installed capacity of around 100 MW is targeted for 2012, with the remaining 150 MW by 2016.
BT alone uses around 0.7% of the UK’s entire consumption of electricity and the wind farm scheme represents the country’s biggest corporate wind power project outside of the energy sector.
Meanwhile, motor manufacturers Ford plans to add a third wind turbine at its Dagenham site, near London, to power the expansion of its diesel engine manufacturing line. This additional 1.8 MW turbine from Ecotricity enables Ford’s Dagenham Diesel Centre to remain 100% wind-powered.
In a similar on-site application, in May 2009 speciality chemicals producer Solutia announced that it is to install two wind turbines at its Newport site in Wales, following an agreement with Wind Direct, a subsidiary of UK-based parent group Wind Prospect. Solutia will obtain more than a third of its total on-site electricity demand from two Nordex 2.5 MW N90 turbines. Preparatory work has begun, with operations due late 2009.
The UK’s largest coal mining firm has also outlined plans to develop wind farms on its sites. UK Coal plc and Peel Energy have signed a collaboration agreement to identify, assess and potentially develop wind farms on sites within its land portfolio.
The agreement, which initially provides Peel with a two year period of exclusivity, covers 14 wind farm sites, and, if all are successful, would have the potential for 54 wind turbines generating up to 133 MW of power.
Meanwhile, retail giant Sainsbury’s has signed a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) that will directly lead to the creation of a new £8 million (€9.3 million) wind generation project at Lochhead in Scotland.
Due to be completed mid-2009, Sainsbury’s will purchase energy direct from A7 Lochhead Ltd. for the next decade under the terms of a deal negotiated by energy management specialists Utilyx. The Lochhead project will comprise three 2 MW REpower MM82 machines once commissioned. It will be located 12 miles (20 km) to the south-east of Glasgow, about 200 metres from the M74 motorway.
This is the first time in the UK that an organization as large as Sainsbury’s had made a deal directly with a generator rather than with an energy company. As such, it represents a new model through which projects can secure funding.
On a smaller scale, two operational wind turbines were purchased in 2009 by a local group Fens Co-op to form the first community owned wind farm in the East Midlands. The purchase of the two 2 MW turbines on the site at Deeping St Nicholas, on the Lincolnshire/Cambridgeshire border, follows a successful share offer which raised over £2.6 million (€3 million) from the 1100 members of Fens Co-op to purchase the project from the developer, Fenland Windfarms Ltd.
One of the UK’s largest wind developers is Renewable Energy Systems (RES). Part of the Robert McAlpine group of construction businesses, the company has now built over 4 GW of wind energy capacity worldwide, following commissioning of the 50 MW Pays de St Seine wind farm in France in May 2009. RES’s first project was at Carland Cross in Cornwall, England, in 1992 and it has since developed 79 international projects, including the recently completed Inner Dowsing offshore wind farm off Skegness, developed for Centrica and forming part of what is currently the world’s largest offshore wind farm at 194 MW. In 2009, RES UK & Ireland Ltd also completed an agreement to sell an eight turbine 20 MW wind farm in Northern Ireland to ESB.
Hunter’s Hill wind farm, which is currently under construction by RES, is situated between Fintona and Fivemiletown in County Tyrone and is adjacent to the existing Lendrum’s Bridge Wind Farm, which was also developed and built by RES. The development followed the announcement of plans for the seven turbine 14 MW Grange wind farm, between Sutton Bridge and Tydd St Mary, approximately 5 miles (8 km) north of Wisbech.
Another UK-based wind developer – Wind Prospect – also continues to pursue projects in the UK, for instance, gaining planning permission for a proposed wind turbine on land at Dewlay Cheese in Lancashire following an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate. London-based Falck Renewables is another developer active in the UK and Europe and is joined by new entrant Mainstream Renewable Power, a renewable energy company led by Airtricity founder Eddie O’Connor. In 2009 Mainstream announced a £34 million (€40 million) equity fundraising round in which Barclays Capital have invested £17 million (€20 million) for a 14.6% stake.
Amongst the major turbine manufacturers, most have UK-subsidiaries, but only Vestas has an independent manufacturing capability, through its VestasCeltic branch. In addition to the Vestas turbine plant, the company also owns the former NEG Micon blade facility on the Isle of Wight (Vestas acquired NEG Micon in 2004).
In 2008, Vestas announced that a new R&D centre will be established on the Isle of Wight, and Vestas has since closed the blade manufacturing facility on the Isle of Wight, however the R&D facility continues its work. This facility supplied exclusively to the onshore American market and the decision to close was more related to growth in US manufacturing. There is great potential for new UK manufacturing, in particular to service the large planned expansion in offshore wind. Many companies are considering UK sites to establish new facilities. In late 2008, Vestas received an order from Vattenfall Wind Power for 300 MW of its V90-3.0 MW wind turbine destined for the Thanet Offshore Wind Farm – located 7 miles (11.3 km) offshore from Foreness Point in the Thames Estuary on the easternmost part of the Kent coastline. Delivery of the turbines is expected to take place during 2009 and 2010, and installation of the wind power plant will take place in 2010.
However, in recent years Vestas has been largely overshadowed in terms of UK projects by relative newcomer Siemens.
Since entering the wind sector with the purchase of Bonus, Siemens has secured a series of orders for both onshore and offshore installations.
Among major contracts secured is one for 25 of its 3.6 MW offshore wind turbines with a combined capacity of 90 MW, at the Rhyl Flats wind farm off the Welsh coast. The developer is RWE npower and the project is due to be complete by mid-2009.
The Rhyl Flats project is located west of the Burbo Banks site in Liverpool Bay, where Siemens erected another 25 turbines, and close to North Hoyle, the UK’s first major offshore wind farm.
Siemens will also supply 30 turbines with a combined capacity of 108 MW for the Gunfleet Sands project off the coast of Essex, near Clacton-on-Sea, for Danish company DONG Energy A/S. Construction of the Gunfleet Sands offshore wind farm, also currently under construction.
In addition, Siemens machines are used at the 180 MW Lynn and Inner Dowsing projects off the Lincolnshire coast, and at the Whitelee project.
Other turbine manufacturers which have been making moves into the UK include Nordex and REpower. In 2009, REpower UK, the UK’s third largest wind turbine supplier, saw its first onshore project in Wick in the far north of Scotland, begin operations. The Achairn onshore wind farm is the first of four which REpower has been appointed to deliver in the Highlands. Parent company REpower Systems AG also completed the acquisition of all shares in REpower UK Ltd in 2009, ending its five year joint venture with Peter Brotherhood, a Peterborough based engineering firm. In the UK, REpower has installed 120 wind turbines generating 240 MW.
Nordex, meanwhile, believes that its high-speed turbines make them ideal for use in the strong wind conditions found in Scotland, and other windy parts of the UK, and says it will be delivering a total of 21 N90/2500 turbines for the wind farms Inchincoosh in Ireland and Craigengelt in Scotland in 2009. Craigengelt is the first wind farm project by GDF SUEZ in Great Britain. The site is near the city of Stirling, to the North of Glasgow. Aside from established overseas players, the UK is also home to some interesting turbine developments. One of the more significant announcements is the news that US technology firm Clipper Windpower has chosen Blyth, Northumberland as the site for the development of its new generation of 10 MW offshore wind turbines.
Called the Britannia Project, the £39 million ($65 million) development programme, supported by One NorthEast (the Regional Development Agency for the north east of England) will see Clipper work with One NorthEast’s Blyth-based New and Renewable Energy Centre (NaREC) which will provide engineering, testing and development services in support of the project.
The Crown Estate has also signed an agreement for the purchase of Clipper’s prototype MBE turbine. Speaking in London, Rob Hastings, director of the marine estates at the Crown Estate, said: ‘It is widely recognized that offshore wind energy will provide the majority of the required contribution needed to ensure that the UK meets its demanding renewable energy target to supply 15% of our consumed energy from renewable sources by 2020. We believe that our support for the Britannia project, through the acquisition of this purposely designed new generation offshore turbine project, will drive forward the development of turbine technology designed for the challenges of the offshore environment.’
There are also numerous engineering, installation and consultancy companies, including UK based technical consultancy Romax Technology Ltd, which signed a new contract with Chinese industrial equipment supplier Shenyang Blower Works Group Co. Ltd. (SBW), to provide design and development support for its DF2000 2 MW wind turbine gearboxes. And, for instance, Aberdeen-based subsea installation company, Subocean Limited, which has been awarded a fast-track contract with EON UK on the Scottish Robin Rigg wind farm development in the Solway Firth.
Private sector engagement
Elsewhere, the private sector is also forging alliances to spread offshore development risk. For instance, five major international energy companies have joined forces with the UK’s Carbon Trust in a £30 million (€35 million) initiative to reduce the cost of energy from offshore wind by 10% or more
The companies – DONG Energy, Airtricity Developments, RWE Innogy, ScottishPower Renewables and StatoilHydro – are part of a new research and demonstration initiative called the Offshore Wind Accelerator (OWA).
Over the next five years, the OWA aims to cut the cost of offshore wind energy by 10% or more, through a combination of wind farm cost reductions and performance improvements. It will focus on the short to medium-term, covering key topics related to wind farm design, construction and operation, including:
- Offshore foundations – developing novel forms of wind turbine foundation with potential for lower capital and installation costs than designs currently in use, including consideration of deep water sites.
- Wake effects – consolidating knowledge about wake effects in large arrays to improve the accuracy of yield assessment processes, allowing wind farm layouts to be optimized and financing costs to be reduced.
- Access, logistics and transportation – developing access systems for wind farm construction and operation that are both economic and safe, in order to maximize turbine availability and therefore wind farm yields.
- Electrical systems – assessing opportunities to maximize the efficiency of offshore wind farm electrical systems, minimizing losses in both the intra-farm array and transmission to shore, in order to maximize delivered electricity.
The initial phase of the OWA will involve a set of detailed feasibility studies, tenders for which have been invited. Large-scale demonstration projects are expected to follow from 2010 onwards.
Mark Williamson, director of Innovations at the Carbon Trust, said: ‘We’ve identified a range of opportunities to reduce costs, increase performance and improve the economic viability of offshore wind farms.’
Kevin McCullough, chief operating officer of RWE Innogy, said: ‘Reducing the cost of offshore wind, especially in current economic circumstances, is vital; and as the industry expands into deeper waters, conditions will inevitably be more challenging. A major and rapid expansion of offshore wind is essential to meet the EU 2020 target, and the OWA is extremely important for the industry Europe-wide.’
This development was followed by the launch of the UK’s £1.1 billion (€1.28 billion) Energy Technologies Institute (ETI), which initially announced three offshore wind turbine projects. The ETI is a private, limited liability company so far comprised of six partners – including BP, Shell, Rolls-Royce, E.ON, Caterpillar and EDF Energy – that brings together the private and public sectors plus scientific and academic institutions to develop and deploy commercially viable energy technologies.
Each partner is investing £50 million (€58 million) over 10 years, and the UK government has pledged to match this funding up to a potential overall fund of £1.1 billion.
The three offshore wind projects announced include:
- The Blue H-led Project Deepwater Turbine consortium, including BAE Systems and EDF Energy, which is developing a floating, deepwater 5 MW wind turbine made of concrete instead of steel. The low-cost turbine is to be tested at water depths of 60 metres, 60 miles (97 km) offshore and will be tethered to the seabed with cables.
- The Helm Wind Project, comprised of E.ON, BP, Rolls-Royce and the University of Strathclyde, is designing an offshore wind turbine from scratch with the primary aim of being low cost and low maintenance.
- The NOVA (Novel Offshore Vertical Axis) project, whose members include QinetiQ, is a potentially 5–10 MW, low-maintenance turbine utilizing aerospace and marine engineering.
Dr David Clarke, CEO of ETI and former head of technology strategy at Rolls-Royce, said the new Institute would announce more offshore wind turbine projects through 2009.
While an overall positive outlook for the UK wind sector is beyond doubt, quite how successful this development will be still depends on the satisfactory resolution of a number of issues.
These include successfully reforming the planning regime to accelerate the development of large-scale renewables projects, and addressing the issues related to grid connection and the large queue which faces developers.
There are also significant technical issues to be addressed too, not least of which are MOD objections related to radar, although there is an agreement in place to explore solutions to military and civil aviation radar objections to wind installations – two key obstacles to widespread development in the UK. Nonetheless, with its outstanding resources and growing political awareness, the UK’s wind industry is looking forward to years of sustained and increasing growth, both on and offshore.
As Dr Gordon Edge, BWEA’s Director of Economics and Markets has observed: ‘A host of independent studies has shown that the wind sector in the UK can be a motor for economic growth. Wind can provide clean, sustainable energy, while attracting investment and creating employment. It is a win-win situation, which, with the right policy framework in place, can benefit the country as a whole.’