Wilson outlines new strategy for offshore windfarmsNews // December 6, 2002
Launching the 'Future Offshore' consultation document, Brian Wilson, Minister for Energy, said: "This is a major step forward in ensuring the orderly development of an offshore wind industry in the UK. The potential contribution towards our energy needsis enormous and this, in turn, will underpin a substantial manufacturing industry."
"With a domestic market in place, we will also be able to contribute to developments around the world. The global market for offshore renewables is predicted to be worth £8 billion by 2007, mainly in Europe."
The new document proposes that the immediate future of wind farm development should be focused in three strategic zones which offer the best development potential - the Greater Wash, the Solway Firth down to North Wales and the Thames Estuary. This willnot preclude other proposals, however.
It also proposes that Strategic Environment Assessments (SEAs) of the three key areas will be made so that scale and location of development is environmentally responsible. This will be done before Crown Estate invite bids for the next round of site leases (expected in April 2003) and also before the European directive requires all member states to do so (July 2004).
New exploration licenses be given for sites beyond the twelve mile legal limit from the shore to enable work to go forward before a new legal framework to be set up enabling development beyond this limit. This would be necessary, for instance, in the Outer Moray Firth where a proposal is being drawn up for outside the territorial limit.
A new bidding process for wind farms should be introduced which will make the most efficient use of the seabed.
Brian Wilson said: "In theory, the three strategic areas could source enough electricityto power the whole of Britain, albeit intermittently. Realistically, we need a balanced energy policy but there is no doubt about the scale of opportunity if our natural resources can be properly harnessed."
"The most crucial part of this strategy is that it focuses on key areas to develop our wind potential. This will stimulate greater competition which in turn means the most efficient use of the seawill be made. But more crucially, as wind farms will be closer together, it means developers can share their resources and help bring down the cost of this abundant source of energy."
"By bringing forward strategic environmental assessments we're helping developers to get on with the job of harnessing this natural resource while ensuring minimal damage is done to marine ecosystems and wildlife. The new exploration licenses will give developers the chance to seek out new areas beyond the current legal 12 mile shoreline limit. This means exciting sites will be ready to exploit once a new legal framework exits."
Mr Wilson added: "The new framework will enable developers to think big. I expect muchlarger proposals to come forward than the 30 turbine (75 MW) projects leased in the first round and my Department is already aware of plans for a 500 MW+ (150 turbine) wind farm in the outer Thames Estuary."