Offshore wind farm gets green light

A 500MW offshore wind farm to be built off the Suffolk coast was given the go-ahead on Monday, bringing Britain's total consented offshore wind capacity up to 2,484MW.

The 140-turbine Greater Gabbard farm, to go up in shallow sand-banks around 23km (12 miles) in the outer Thames Estuary, will supply enough electricity for 415,000 homes.

The wind farm is the third to be given the green light under the second round of the Government’s offshore wind programme, with consent given for the London Array and Thenet wind farms with 1300MW between them so far (see related story).

The UK has a further five offshore wind farms already operating – North Hoyle, Scroby Sands, Kentish Flats and Barrow, plus a pilot project in Blyth – “round 1 projects” with a total capacity of 303MW. Consented offshore projects now amount to 2,484MW and a further 294MW-worth is under construction, according to the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA).

Round 1 is expected to amount to 1.1GW in total, while Round 2 projects, developed in the three strategic areas of the Thames Estuary, the Greater Wash and off the North Wales coast, should deliver a total capacity of between 5 and 7GW.

The Greater Gabbard farm is being developed by the renewables company Airtricity and engineering corporation Fluor.

Fluor’s managing director Patrick Flaherty called for a quick start to constrution work to get the wind farm operational by 2010. “We are pleased to have achieved this important milestone and we look forward to working with all involved stakeholders to progress the project to financial close during 2007 so that we can begin the construction works in time to support the government’s 2010 renewables target,” he said.

“Greater Gabbard Offshore Winds Limited will play a vital part in supplying green electricity as part of the wider programme to produce 6-7000MW of electricity to the UK,” he added.

Alistair Darling said: “We are seeing [the renewables] industry grow by the day. Only two weeks ago we reached the 2GW wind energy landmark, it took more than 10 years to get the first GW and less than 20 months to get the second. It is a key part of our approach, we will continue to back it.”

Climate change minister Ian Pearson said that projects like Greater Gabbard “will play a major role in helping to reduce the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions by 60% by 2050. ”

Consent for Greater Gabbard was backed by the BWEA, whose chief executive Maria McCafferey said that “the significance of this decision, aside from the notable benefits to the UK in terms of clean carbon free generation, is the continuing clear signal from the UK to the rest of the world that this country is open for business for offshore wind and we look forward to more consents in the near future.”

More information about the Greater Gabbard project can be found here.

Goska Romanowicz

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