The UK Coalition Government's Ministers have said that they will be providing £66m of funding to improve the supply chain for offshore wind developments, boost innovation and bring new products to market. They anticipate that this could help the industry contribute £7bn to the economy and create 30,000 jobs by 2020.
The announcement came just as industry body RenewableUK trumpeted that the UK's total onshore and offshore wind capacity had passed 10 gigawatts, providing enough power for the equivalent of 5.5 million homes.
This investment is part of a new offshore wind strategy. Recognising the desire to attract investors and keep the UK buoyant and bubbling at the forefront of the global wind industry, it will include the creation of an organisation to attract investment into to the UK. There will also be proposals to require major developers applying for subsidies to draw up a plan on how they will boost the supply chain. This would be a test of their seriousness in terms of commitment and also of the practicality of plans.
The plans were announced by the Deputy Prime Minister of the Coalition, Nick Clegg, and Ed Davey when they were visiting the Centrica's Energy Operations base in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, to open Centrica's £1bn offshore wind farm, off the coast of Skegness. The offshore wind farm project is a joint venture between leading UK energy company Centrica Energy, offshore wind market leader DONG Energy and Siemens Project Ventures.
The last of the wind farm’s 75 wind turbines was connected to the National Grid on Wednesday, July 24y, bringing the 270MW project up to full strength for the first time. The Lincs farm is now capable of producing enough energy for over 200,000 homes – equivalent to around two thirds of the homes in Lincolnshire.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:
“I’m absolutely delighted to open the Lincs wind farm – a major contribution to ensuring the UK can continue to build on our competitive edge in renewable energy, as well as the UK economy and with the potential to power thousands of homes with clean energy and boost the local economy by bringing jobs to the region. The race is now on to lead the world in clean, green energy and Yorkshire and the Humber has a clear natural advantage with enviable wind resources and a world-beating research base – I am absolutely committed that we strengthen our position which is why our offshore wind industrial strategy aims to grow UK supply chain manufacturing so that more of the work and jobs can be done here.”
Construction of the wind farm started in 2010 with first power achieved in August 2012 and the last of the Siemens 3.6MW turbines lifted into place on Sunday, March 31 this year. Over 350 people have been involved in its construction
While we welcome any encouragement for investment in renewable energy, offshore wind production is much more expensive than onshore wind farms, both in terms of construction and maintenance costs, and in connecting to the Grid. However there are some big onshore projects still going ahead: Construction of one of Britain's biggest windfarms will begin next year, 2014, and take two years to complete.
Swedish firm Vattenfall says its Pen y Cymoedd wind farm in south Wales will have a 25-year life span and contribute £45m to the local economy. It will be the biggest onshore wind farm in England and Wales will be built between Neath and Aberdare with 76 turbines. Officials say it will on average generate the equivalent annual electricity needs of 140,000 UK households and create around 300 jobs.
The energy secretary, Ed Davey, said Pen y Cymoedd will be a boost for the economy as well as the environment.
"Offshore and onshore wind is an important contributor to our energy mix. We have provided certainty early to onshore and offshore wind investors and now see significant investment decisions being made that will benefit the UK's economy for years to come."
Let's hope the coalition Government continue to see the benefits of mixed onshore/offshore wind farm investment and development.