Sunday, December 09, 2007

Imagine every home in the UK powered by offshore wind energy (it isn't hard to do)

By now it should be apparent to anyone paying attention that there is no single solution to the twin challenges of meeting society's energy needs and combating global climate change. However it should also be apparent that wind energy is certainly one of the options immediately available that is capable of affordably achieving these critically important goals.

The offshore environment offers opportunities for the deployment of windfarms with capacities comparable to those of conventional energy sources such as coal and natural gas. Moreover, strategically arrayed of windfarms have the potential for addressing what many consider wind's most serious drawback -- its variable nature. More on this in my next post.

Many European Union countries like the UK and Denmark are taking serious steps to make wind energy a major part of their energy portfolios. (GW)

Offshore wind to power every British home by 2020

By Billy Youngson
Energy Current
December 7, 2007

UK: Within the next 12 years, the seas of Britain could have enough wind farms to power every one of the country's 25 million homes.

Harnessing the vast potential of the UK's island status has entered a new phase with Energy Secretary John Hutton announcing proposals to open up its seas to up to 33 GW (gigawatts) of offshore wind energy.

He also announced that he will chair a panel of experts to advise him on renewable energy, underscoring the UK Government's determination to play its part in meeting the EU target of 20 percent renewable energy by 2020.

Speaking to the European energy industry in Berlin, Hutton launched a Strategic Environmental Assessment of the seas surrounding the UK, paving the way for a possible 'third round' of wind energy development and beyond.

He said, "The draft plan I'm setting out today could allow companies to develop up to 25 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2020, in addition to the 8 gigawatts already planned.

"This potential major expansion will be subject to the outcome of a Strategic Environmental Assessment. But if we could manage to achieve this, by 2020 enough electricity could be generated off our shores to power the equivalent of all of the UK's homes.

"The challenge for government and for industry is to turn this potential - for our energy and economy - into a cost-effective reality. This will be a major challenge."

The UK has some of the best offshore wind resources in the world, a long history of design, installation and operational expertise in the offshore environment and the skills and manufacturing capability to transfer to the emerging sector.

On top of that, the UK is now the number one location for investment in offshore wind in the world and next year will overtake Denmark as the country with the most offshore wind capacity.

Hutton added, "I want to ensure the UK remains one of the best places for renewable business. Our trajectory on renewables is beyond question. They are as central to our future low carbon economy as chimneys were to the industrial revolution and road building following the invention of the mass produced car."

The first round of offshore wind farms, in 2001, comprised a number of small demonstration projects. The second round, in 2003, resulted in the award of options for leases for larger scale projects in three designated areas - the Thames Estuary, the Greater Wash and the North West.

Based on current plans under the first and second leasing rounds, about 8 GW of capacity could be operational by around 2014, including the 1 GW London Array, which is the largest planned offshore wind farm in the world.

The proposal for a possible third round, and further regular rounds, of offshore wind development announced today would open up the vast bulk of the UK's continental shelf to large scale development. It would allow for up to a further 25 GW of offshore capacity on top of the planned 8 GW.

Hutton announced that he will chair an enhanced Renewable Advisory Board with a bigger remit to advise the government on the EU 2020 renewable energy target and a wider pool of expertise to help deal with the issues and opportunities across renewable energy.

The government is also working on a regulatory regime to ensure that all offshore projects can connect to onshore electricity transmission and distribution networks, quickly, securely and as cheaply as possible.

The developments sit alongside plans in the Energy Bill, to be introduced shortly, to 'band' the support provided by the Renewables Obligation to give greater support to offshore wind, wave and tidal energy. The support will incentivise the expansion envisaged by today's proposals.

The amount of electricity from renewable sources of all kinds in the UK has doubled to almost five percent since the introduction of the Renewables Obligation in 2002. Current forecasts will see a further tripling to around 15 percent by 2015. Plans are also under way for a feasibility study into the potential for electricity generation from the Severn Estuary.

At the Spring European Council the EU agreed a target of 20 percent of all energy from renewables by 2020. The target includes fuel for electricity, heat and transport. The commission is due to propose how that target should be apportioned between member states in January.


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