Britain Aims to Harness Offshore Wind Power

Off-shore sites have the potential to power over one million British homes with between 1,000 and 1,500 megawatts of power.

Published: 05-Apr-2001

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain Thursday cleared the way for a $2.30 billion offshore wind power investment, the first large scale British attempt to tap this clean energy source.

Fully installed, the planned turbines would be capable of powering homes in a city the size of Manchester, England's third largest conurbation.

The Crown Estate, which manages land and territorial waters owned by Britain's Queen, said it was issuing seabed leases to 18 companies at 13 sites in estuaries around Britain. The sites have the potential to power over one million British homes with between 1,000 and 1,500 megawatts of power.

The British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) which represents most of the businesses involved, said the set of projects would meet one percentage point of the government's plan to see 10 percent of the UK's energy needs produced from renewable sources by 2010.

Offshore wind is more expensive to tap than onshore, but local resistance to noise and the sight of tall land-based turbines has made it an option worth exploring.

According to BWEA figures, wind power is already price competitive with alternatives, at between 1.9 and 3.0 pence per kilowatt hour compared with 1.8-2.2 pence for gas. Companies involved in the project still have to obtain planning permission from the government and other planning bodies and must gain all consents within three years.

The developers include global energy names like Enron and Royal Dutch/Shell, British power and construction companies Powergen and AMEC, and smaller specialist companies.

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