Britain takes to the wind

The DTI today released proposals for the next generation of offshore windfarms to provide up to 6GW (gigawatts) of new energy generation by 2010, enough to power 15% of all households in the United Kingdom.

Patricia Hewitt said: "This announcement is good for the environment, good for Britain's energy needs and good for jobs. "The Energy White Paper committed us to providing 10% of energy from renewable sources by the year 2010, and an aspiration to double that figure by the year 2020. "This announcement represents a big step towards meeting our goals. Offshore wind has potential to provide a significant proportion of the UK's energy needs. "It will help the UK renewables industry to grow, building on our world leading expertise in offshore manufacturing, creating over 20,000 new jobs in manufacturing, installation and maintenance, as the windfarms take shape". Three strategic areas of shallow waters - the ideal environment for siting offshore wind turbines - have been identified by the Crown Estate and the DTI as appropriate for development: (1)Thames Estuary (2) Greater Wash (3) North West The sites were originally identified in November in the DTI's Future Offshore consultation, but have since been subject to rigorous environmental assessment, to assess the impact of proposed development, before sites could be offered for leasing. Today Patricia Hewitt has asked The Crown Estate to invite windfarm developers to tender for sites in all the areas. This will be the second round of leasing to be announced for offshore windfarm development. The first round, which was announced in December 2000, resulted in 17 proposals from developers, two of which are already under construction: at North Hoyle, near Rhyl, and Scroby Sands near Great Yarmouth. In total Round 1 should result in more than 500 turbines, generating 1.5GW - enough to power all the households in Manchester. Round 2 is far more ambitious in scale, with each farm comprising hundreds - rather than tens of turbines. The energy produced will be sufficient to power more than 3.5million households - or almost 9 million people, more than the population of Greater London, twice that of Scotland and three times Wales. Site leases for the second phase of windfarms will be awarded in the autumn and construction is expected to begin in the next few years. Today's announcement comes as public support for renewable energy is stronger than ever. A new opinion poll undertaken by the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) showed that 74% of bill payers supported the increased used of wind power, with 74% backing the Government's target of generating 20% of electricity from renewables by 2020. Marcus Rand, Chief Executive of the BWEA said: "This is fantastic news. We have the best offshore wind resource in Europe and today's announcement signals that we are now on track to seriously develop it. Successful projects from this round could account for over half of the Government's 10% target and could be supplying clean electricity to some 4 million households by 2010. This is a win-win for the environment and the economy as it represents a fantastic opportunity to generate clean electricity and thousands of new jobs. "What's more, our opinion poll results today shows that today's proposed expansion in the use of wind energy comes with the support of the vast majority of the population." Note: Copies of the BWEA poll are available from their press office: 020 7689 1966 or at BWEA The Government's Energy White Paper is available online: Our Energy Future - Creating a Low Carbon Economy Enquiries to: Department of Trade and Industry, 7th Floor, 1 Victoria Street London SW1H 0ET +44 (0)20 7215 5000 Textphone +44 (0)20 7215 6740