Nuclear industry turns to offshore wind

British Energy has announced that it has formed a joint venture company with Renewable Energy Systems Ltd to develop offshore wind power around the UK mainland coast, pleasing environmentalists.

The new 50:50 joint venture company, Offshore Wind Power Limited, has made an application for its first project to the Crown Estate, which owns the seabed and will offer leases on sites for development, British Energy announced on 15 February.

Offshore Wind Power Limited brings together two of the most established power generating and engineering companies in the UK. RES is one of Europe’s leading wind energy developers and part of the large British construction company Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd. British Energy is the UK’s largest power generator supplying over 20% of the country’s power.

The pre-qualification application to the Crown Estate marks the first stage in a development process which could last around four years, the companies said. Following pre-qualification, Offshore Wind Power Limited will apply for consents, carry out surveys and enter a round of grant applications to the DTI. The UK Government recently signalled its support for offshore wind development with a pledge of £50 million from a new Lottery financed fund, the New Opportunities Fund, to support offshore wind and biomass power generation (see related story). The DTI anticipates that the offshore wind industry will generate 1.8% of the total UK electricity supply by 2010.

The UK’s first ever offshore wind farm opened last year near Newcastle, the world’s biggest, (see related story)and further eight to twelve sites are expected to be revealed by the summer.

“We are pleased to be sharing our power generation and supply expertise with one of Europe’s leading wind energy developers to form a robust team for the development of offshore wind power,” commented Peter Hollins, British Energy’s Chief Executive. “Adding generation from wind energy to our nuclear portfolio means the Company will continue to make an enormous contribution to the UK achieving and maintaining its climate change commitments.”

“We are confident that our bid to the Crown Estate is a strong one, given our combined expertise in wind power development, construction, power generation and supply,” said Dr Ian Mays, Managing Director of RES, is the largest UK-based wind energy developer with over 1100 MW of capacity worldwide. “Offshore wind power has huge potential in the UK for generating clean and efficient electricity, thereby helping the UK meet its climate change commitments.”

Environmental group, Friends of the Earth (FoE) described the announcement as “a victory for common sense and a “tacit admission that nuclear power is uneconomic and debunks the tired claim that new nuclear power stations are required to limit the emissions that threaten dangerous climate


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