Tuesday, 17 June 2014

New North Sea harvest

wind farm, renewables, north sea

Just as the UK's gas and oil bonanza is drawing to a close it seems that the often maligned North Sea off the east coast of Britain is about to deliver again.

This time the harvest will be in the shape of electricity from the gusty winds that ply relentlessly across the busy stretch of water.

The government announced today the go-ahead for one of the world's largest offshore wind farms that is set to be built off the coast of East Anglia.

‘East Anglia One’ will cover an area of 300 square kilometres in the southern North Sea and support almost 2,900 jobs and is expected to generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 820,000 homes.

It could also pump over £520 million into the region’s economy and today’s announcement is an important milestone for the 50/50 joint venture between ScottishPower Renewables and Vattenfall,.

Construction is expected to start in 2017 with offshore installation commencing the following year and generation starting in 2019.

Initial plans were to install up to 325 offshore turbines in a zone some 43 km off the coast but the use of larger turbines means that only around 240 will likely be needed to deliver the same 1.2GW of capacity.

UK energy secretary Ed Davey said: “East Anglia and the rest of the UK have a lot to gain from this development. The project has the potential to inject millions of pounds into the local and national economies, and support thousands of ‘green’ jobs.

“Making the most of Britain’s home grown energy is crucial in creating job and business opportunities, getting the best deal for customers and reducing our reliance on foreign imports.”

RenewableUK’s chief executive Maria McCaffery described it as “a huge confidence boost” for the UK’s entire offshore wind sector.

“Our world-beating offshore wind industry is set to more than treble in size by the end of the decade – projects like this will help us to maintain our global lead,” he said.

“This marks the start of what is set to be one of the world’s major green energy infrastructure developments. It is the first of six projects within the same zone with a combined capacity of up to 7.2 gigawatts, enough to power more than 4.6 million British homes.

The government announcement stressed that the new wind farm would be ‘significantly larger’ than the the London Array, currently the biggest wind farm in the world.

ScottishPower Renewables and Vattenfall will now accelerate supply chain contracts and start detailed negotiations to determine which ports could best support the project.

Geographically, the North Sea - most of which has an average depth of around 94m - is on the European continental shelf and, strictly speaking, is part of the Atlantic ocean.

It lies between Norway and Denmark in the east, Scotland and England in the west, and Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France in the south.

Drilling for oil - in fields mostly owned by the UK and Norway - began in the 1960s and led to still on-going arguments between England and Scotland about how revenue from the oil should be spent.

In contrast to oil and gas, wind power is both sustainable and clean in terms of emissions and is now recognised as one of the world's fastest growing energy sources,.

Harnessing its power to make electricity won’t solve the world’s climate change problems but developments like East Anglia One are definite steps in the right direction.

The Lighthouse Keeper is written by Clive Simpson - for more information, commission
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