Saturday, February 07, 2004

ES&T Online News: Britain

The United Kingdom is aiming to become the world’s largest producer of offshore wind power within the next few years. The country is planning to build turbines capable of generating enough electricity to power one in six British households by 2007, including the world’s largest wind farm.

Developing offshore wind power is a key part of the U.K. government’s ambitious plan to dramatically increase the percentage of electricity it generates from renewable resources. The country currently produces 3% of its power from renewables, but in December the government boosted its target of producing 10% (10 gigawatts [GW]) of its power from green sources by 2010 to 15% by 2015.

The announcement came after 15 groups were granted 50-year seabed leases, a key step in securing operating licenses. The developers, which include National Wind Power, Amec, and Total, are looking to install turbines capable of generating 5.4–7.2 GW of electricity—enough to power 4 million homes. The developers will determine the project’s final size, although they must produce at least 75% percent of a site’s capacity. The projects cluster in three shallow sea areas: the Thames Estuary (south England), the Greater Wash (eastern England), and the northwest. The largest grouping, in the Greater Wash area, could provide up to 1.2 GW from 300 turbines.

Britain is scrambling to catch up with mainland Europe where wind power projects have been expanding rapidly for years. It's probably no coincidence that this comes as North Sea oil has clearly peaked and gone into a steady decline. The reality of the need to move away from a relaince on petrochemicals to renewable energy sources seems to be hitting home just about everywhere except the U.S. where congress still seems to think that giving away a few more subsidies to the oil companies will solve our energy problems. We are in for a rude awakening.


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