Green light for Southeast windfarms

3 min read

The government today gave the go-ahead for two major offshore wind farms, the London Array and Thanet systems, to be built in the Thames Estuary.

The schemes could together produce 1.3GW of green electricity, enough to power a third of London's three million households when fully operational. They will make a significant contribution to the government's aim, set out in the Energy Review, to deliver a five-fold increase in the UK's renewable energy resource by 2020.

The London Array will consist of 341 turbines,  each capable of generating 3 to 7MW, five offshore sub-stations and four meteorological masts. They will rise from the sea 20km off the Kent and Essex coasts and will occupy an area 232km2 in size stretching between Margate and Clacton.

The £500m Thanet wind farm will be located approximately 11.3km from North Foreland on the Kent coast and its 100 turbines will occupy an area of around 35km2. The project, led by developer, Warwick Energy, is being fast-tracked for delivery in 2008 and expects to provide electricity for around 240,000 homes.

The Thanet consortium, made up of E.ON UK, Shell WindEnergy and CORE, welcomed the decision, claiming that if the wind farm is built it will displace nearly two million tonnes of CO2 a year. The wind farm would also generate enough electricity to power 750,000 homes, equivalent to a quarter of Greater London’s households or every home in Kent and East Sussex.

The consent for the onshore substation, necessary to connect London Array into the national grid, remains outstanding and will now be subject to a public inquiry.

Andrew Murfin, a Director of London Array Limited, said: ‘This is a significant step forward in the development of the London Array offshore wind farm. The UK government has a target of 10 per cent of energy generation from renewables by 2010 and an aspiration to double that by 2020; to help reach these targets it is imperative that large scale wind farms such as London Array get the go-ahead and are built in the not too distant future.’

Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Alistair Darling said: ‘Together, once built, they will mark a significant stride towards our renewables target. It is a significant step forward in providing a greener and clean source of power.

Britain is second only to Denmark in the offshore wind sector and projects such as the London Array, which will be the biggest in the world when completed, and Thanet underline the real progress that is being made.’

Environment Secretary David Miliband added: ‘We expect this announcement will be the first of a number of large-scale offshore wind farms in the UK and will provide real impetus for the continued developments in the offshore renewable energy sector that will benefit generations to come.

‘By issuing the licences to build the world's largest offshore wind farms in the Thames Estuary we are re-enforcing the UK's commitment to renewable energy and combating climate change and ocean acidification. Working with the developers and those engaged in the broader environmental debate throughout the challenging application process ensured that all the environmental issues were addressed, as well as the impacts to the marine environment.’

Brian Robinson, from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers said: ‘IMechE warmly welcomes this announcement. The Thames Estuary is ideal for large-scale wind-power schemes because it is both windy and near to large numbers of electricity consumers. The UK has the best wind resource in Europe, but has been painfully slow in making use of that clean, renewable energy. Today's news is a giant stride in the right direction.’

Dr Robert Gross, Head of Technology and Policy Assessment at the UK Energy Research Centre said: ‘The London Array has the potential to contribute to two important goals: the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the improvement of energy security through diversity of supply.

‘Although Britain has the best wind and wave resources in Europe, there are still scientific and engineering challenges to be solved to reduce costs and improve technical performance. "Learning by doing" as well as fundamental research will lie at the heart of this process, which is why it is so important for offshore wind to go ahead.

Philip Wolfe, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association offered a cautious welcome to the project, saying: ‘The industry welcomed today's announcement, but drew attention to the time it has taken to get these first 'round two' offshore projects to consent stage. We need much faster planning and connection processes. The rate of deployment of renewable installations of all types needs to accelerate dramatically to meet our climate change and energy security targets’.