London, England [RenewableEnergyAccess.com] Greater Gabbard Offshore Winds Limited (GGOWL), a joint venture between Irish wind giant Airtricity and Texas-based Fortune 500 company Fluor, received planning permission on Monday from the British government for the construction of a 500 megawatt (MW) offshore wind farm to be located in the Outer Thames Estuary.The proposed Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm will feature up to 140 wind turbines, located around two sand banks known as the Inner Gabbard and The Galloper, approximately 23 km off the coast of Suffolk. The project is the third consent to be awarded by UK Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Alistair Darling, in the government’s second phase of offshore wind development, and follows on the heels of two consents granted in December for the 341-turbine London Array project and 100-turbine Thanet project. “We need more renewable energy as part of the mix of generation of electricity. It cuts emissions while powering homes. We are seeing this industry grow by the day. Only two weeks ago we reached the 2 GW wind energy landmark, it took more than 10 years to get the first GW and less than 20 months to get the second,” said Darling. “It is a key part of our approach; we will continue to back it.” In addition, the GGOWL recently received permission to connect the wind farm to the electricity grid via a new substation planned at Sizewell from the Suffolk Coastal District Council. This will be connected to the offshore wind farm via underground and subsea cabling and will link to the existing overhead transmission lines in the area. “This is a great boon for the United Kingdom. Wind on such scale will bring strong economic and environmental benefits for the UK. When the wind blows free generation replaces generation that costs. Wind reduces risk because the cost of the power offered will be fixed in price and offers price benefits for the consumer. Such large scale offshore wind provides consistent power and will push down the prices for fossil fuels,” said Eddie O’Connor, Airtricity CEO. “This price decrease is caused by the diminishment in demand for fossil fuels, something we’ve seen frequently in Northern Europe. The east coast of England is a key area for offshore wind projects with approximately 6.5 GW of capacity currently planned out of a total of 10 GW for the whole of the UK. Presently there are two phases of offshore development in the UK — Round 1 which awarded 17 sites with 30 turbines and Round 2 — a far greater scope with higher numbers of turbines and at greater distances from shore. There are currently five offshore wind farms operational in the UK: Scroby Sands, Kentish Flats, North Hoyle, Barrow and Blyth. Ten have received consent (includes the London Array and Thanet in the Thames Estuary) and eight are in the planning stage. According to the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA), the Greater Gabbard projects brings the UK’s consented offshore portfolio to 2,484 MW — with an additional 303 MW already operating and 294 MW under construction. “BWEA is delighted by the next consent in the second phase of the UK’s world-leading offshore program. The significance of this decision, aside from the notable benefits to the UK in terms of clean carbon free generation, is the continuing clear signal from the UK to the rest of the world that this country is open for business for offshore wind and we look forward to more consents in the near future,” said BWEA Chief Executive Maria McCaffery. Receipt of planning consent allows the joint venture to progress the project design and to structure the project financing arrangements as well as the power purchase agreements that are required to allow the project to achieve financial close which is scheduled for second half of 2007. GGOWL is already focusing on pre-construction activities: Fluor has been appointed as Engineering, Procurement and Construction contractor. The procurement process for turbines and other equipment has commenced, with offshore construction planned to commence in 2009. “We are pleased to have achieved this important milestone and we look forward to working with all involved stakeholders to progress the project to financial close during 2007 so that we can begin the construction works in time to support the government’s 2010 renewables target,” said Patrick Flaherty, Fluor’s Managing Director, referencing the British Government’s renewable energy target of generating 10% by 2010 and 20% by 2020.