Utility companies compete for £100bn wind farm prize
The rights to build wind farms off the coast of Britain up to 50 times the size of the biggest present plants are expected to be handed to consortiums of major utilities, with the prize Norfolk field likely to go to Scottish Power and Vattenfall.
By Rowena Mason, City Reporter
The 5,000 megawatt Norfolk development will be three times larger than the giant London Array farm under construction in the Thames Estuary – due to be crowned the biggest in Europe when the first of its 341 turbines start working in 2012.
Another utility consortium called Forewind, including RWEnpower Renewables, Scottish & Southern Energy, Statkraft and StatoilHydro, is believed to be the frontrunner for the even bigger 10,000 megawatt Dogger Bank plot in the North Sea.
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It is the third and most ambitious round of licensing, that aims to create a revolution in Britain's offshore wind industry allowing the country to hit its climate change targets. The wind farms will cost billions of pounds to construct, with substantial subsidies from the Government through green taxes.
Other available plots are a 5,000 megawatt zone in the Irish Sea, a 2,500 megawatt area in the Humber Estuary, a 1,000 megawatt near Hastings and a series of smaller fields.
Only a handful of offshore wind projects are currently generating electricity, with capacities of 60 to 200 megawatts each. But Britain's total output must grow to 33,000 to 40,000 megawatts if it is to generate a third of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. The country will have to spend £100bn on developing offshore wind capacity if it is to hit climate targets.
Spokesmen from RWEnpower Renewables for the Forewind consortium and Scottish Power said they had been "bound by confidentiality agreements" and could not comment.
The Crown Estate declined to comment, but confirmed it would be announcing the winners by the end of the fourth quarter this year.
Centrica, the owner of British Gas and one of the UK's most committed investors in wind farms, last week warned that subsidies would need to continue until 2020 if offshore renewables are to be viable.