UK fires starting gun for offshore wind

Licences granted for 18 offshore farms as Britain tries to catch up with European rivals

The UK took an important step today towards exploiting its vast wind energy resource with announcement of preliminary licensing for 18 offshore wind farms around England and Wales. If all projects go ahead, they will nearly quadruple UK wind power capacity and supply 1% of national electricity demand, thus contributing one-tenth of the government's target for 10% of power to be generated renewably by 2010.

Despite having Europe's largest wind resource, the UK currently lags far behind countries like Germany, Denmark and Spain in harnessing it. Combined capacity is currently just over 400MW, compared with over 6,000MW in Germany (ENDS Daily 17 January) and over 2,000MW each in Denmark and Spain. Britain currently boasts just one small offshore wind farm (ENDS Daily 2 February 2000).

Today's announcement has been widely welcomed by industry and environmental groups, several of which described it as a "new dawn" for renewable energy in Britain. Offshore wind has long been seen as having very significant long-term potential for the country, particularly since local opposition to wind turbines has seriously hampered development of an onshore wind industry.

Proposed by 13 different development firms, construction of the projects is not expected to start for another 18 months. The government is currently consulting on how best to speed up the planning approval process.

Follow Up:
UK Crown Estates, tel: +44 20 72 10 43 77, a press release, map of proposed offshore wind farms.

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