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UK PM stresses strategic key role of offshore wind energy with announcement at Crown Estate

On January 8, 2010, British Prime Minister Brown stressed the importance of offshore wind energy in the UK granting rights to further propel the growth of ocean wind farm developments. The announcement was made at Crown Estate which previously had made available a large extension of property for wind technology research and development.  The Crown Estate owns UK’s coastal seabeds.

Offshore wind farms are a key element of the strategy to power most homes in the UK
Offshore wind farms are a key element of the strategy to power most homes in the UK
Photo: Steve Fareham at Burbo Bank, 07 OCT 2007

The announcement includes a mix of strategy, planning, targets and key technologies for the “future of clean energy in Britain” where the objective is to generate electricity from offshore wind farms to power most homes in Britain.

According to Mr. Brown, “Already, Britain is the biggest offshore wind producer in the world - with 8 offshore wind farms producing nearly 700 megawatts of clean energy - and a further four offshore wind farms currently under construction.

And today we’re launching another huge expansion to meet our low carbon energy targets, with potentially an additional 6,400 turbines generating 32 gigawatts of clean electricity feeding into the UK grid”.

A series of actions from the UK government facilitate this growth “By enlarging and extending the Renewables Obligation; by increasing the incentive for offshore wind; by reforming the transmission access regime; by introducing a new planning act to speed up permissions and consent; by introducing a new marine act to bring together coastal planning; and through the package of financial support we have arranged with the European investment bank, …”. Offshore wind companies invested about £4B in new projects during 2009. It includes the start of the 90 square mile, £2B+ London Array Project First Phase that will feed the grid by 2012 with 630MW from 175 offshore wind turbines in the Thames Estuary to provide about 25% of the residential energy needs of Greater London.  E.ON, Dong Energy and Abu Dhabi are the developers of the project. The second phase will increase its output to 1GW totaling 271 turbines.

Out of the £550M available from UK’s low carbon funding, about £170M is budgeted for offshore wind. Part of this amount, equivalent to almost one third of the total fund, has already been assigned to:

  • Clipper Windpower Marine for their Britannia Project to develop the world’s largest turbine blade.  The project has set late 2011 to deploy its 10MW offshore turbine, among world’s largest. 
  • Artemis Intelligent Power to transfer their existing technology from automotive to wind energy. The company has created an innovative, lightweight, compact, reliable and multiple applications hydraulic technology system successfully tested by BMW to store energy from a ‘regenerative’ braking system eliminating the need for battery and electric motor in a hybrid prototype.  Its application in wind turbines is targeted at replacing the gearboxes.
  • Vestas to develop a cutting edge research and development facility on the Isle of Wight.
  • Burntisland Fabrications is a supplier of offshore structures for both oil and gas, and renewable energy; particularly, wind, wave and tidal. It developed and built the world’s deepest offshore wind structure in 2006.
  • Tees Alliance Group ltd.  (TAG) will provide an automated facility for the rolling and welding of large diameter tubulars and foundations required by the wind turbines.

The announcement complements and strengthens an overall strategy and commitment of the UK towards a rapid growth into a low carbon economy with offshore wind technology in the front seat. Perhaps a model to follow, as very few others, to avoid unnecessary delays, lost of opportunities and related financial difficulties when green technology pioneers clash with the status quo, individual or group interests or legislation unprepared for the green revolution.


More information about this announcement is available at http://www.number10.gov.uk/Page22062

Comments

  • William Ernest Schenewerk, PhD 4 years ago

    Large wind farms average 20% utilization according to USE DOE, CA ISO and Spanish data. If we assume offshore wind has 35% utilization (an unproven assumption in my opinion), then backup airplane motors run at 65% utilization. Airplane motors running at 65% utilization at 35% efficiency use roughly the same amount of natural gas as CCGT running 100% of the time at 55% efficiency. Large CCGT tend to turn into "parts eaters" when forced offline suddenly. Any windmill system that falls below 35% utilization becomes a net consumer of natural gas. Larger "airplane motors" have higher efficiency but are more likely to operate at part-throttle which lowers efficiency. Apparently there is no published research on optimum "airplane motor" size to back up wind energy. Perhaps nobody has done any analysis of these concepts, perhaps because the answer is very unpleasant. While pumped hydro can back up wind energy, very few are planned. Pumped hydro loses roughly 1/3 of the energy.