Energy Secretary John Hutton announced that the development – set to be the UK’s fourth largest offshore wind farm – has been given conditional planning approval.

The farm, which will be known as Sheringham Shoal and will be developed by European partnership Scira Offshore Energy Ltd, will have up to 108 turbines.

The company said this will be enough to power the equivalent of about 178,000 homes with clean electricity.

John Hutton said: “This new wind farm demonstrates our commitment to dramatically increase the amount of energy we generate from renewable sources, helping to cut the UK’s carbon emissions and secure our energy supplies.

“Sheringham Shoal will be the UK’s fourth largest offshore wind farm approved to date and will help provide a significant contribution towards our renewable energy targets.

“Companies want to build here because we have made the UK one of the most attractive places to invest in wind power.”

Scira Offshore Energy, a joint venture company formed between Norwegian energy firm StatoilHydro and Dutch firm Evelop, welcomed the decision.

The company is now awaiting a decision on the investment from its majority owner, StatoilHydro, which is expected to decide before the end of the year.

If the company’s board approve the investment, construction is expected to begin in 2009 with the wind farm becoming operational in 2011.

Jaap Roos, Scira board member and director of Evelop International, said: “The North Sea is a vast energy resource.

“If the UK is going to realise its ambitions for clean energy this potential must be realised. This project is a major step for the UK receiving clean energy.”

Mr Hutton also approved an application from Npower Renewables to build an 18-turbine, 75MW onshore wind farm at Middlemoor, near Alnwick in Northumberland.

Kate Martin

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