Ministers to announce 18 new offshore windfarms

By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor

05 April 2001

The British 'green industrial revolution' comes a huge step closer this morning when plans will be announced for 18 large offshore windfarms around the coasts of England and Wales.

The new developments will quadruple the amount of electricity Britain generates from wind, provide enough power to light and heat more than a million homes, and open up a new era of renewable energy.

Groups of up to 30 huge, high-tech windmill-turbines, each up to 200ft high, will be built from two to six miles offshore, in a ring around the coastline from the Solway Firth in the North West and down through Lancashire and Wales, to Essex and right up the east coast to Yorkshire and the mouth of the Tees.

At the moment Britain has 60 onshore windfarms, mainly sited on high hills, which between them generate only about 400 megawatts of electricity, enough to supply 300,00 homes. There is one "pilot" offshore windfarm, opened at Blyth in Northumberland last December, with two turbines ­ the word's largest ­ each generating about 2MW of power.

The new developments proposed by 18 major energy companies ­ costing about £1.6bn ­ will dwarf this by providing a total of 1,600MW, more than the output of all but the largest coal-fired power stations.

The list of locations will be officially announced this morning by the Crown Estate, which owns and administers the seabed around Britain and will grant licences for the projects.

Peter Hain, the Energy Minister, said last night that the Government was giving "a clear green signal" that wind energy was the way forward. He said: "Developers are ready to invest in providing green energy for Britain. This is the new beginning that will take offshore wind from the margins into the mainstream."

The move follows Tony Blair's second major environment speech a month ago, in which he said Britain was lagging behind in the "green industrial revolution". Mr Blair put his personal backing behind wind and other forms of renewable energy, which do not produce the big emissions of carbon dioxide caused by burning fossil fuels ­ such as coal, oil and gas ­ that are believed to be causing global warming.

"This is tremendous news, and it is the dawn of a new era," said Mark Johnstone, the Friend of the Earth's renewable energy campaigner. "Wind power's huge potential is now being matched by the ambition and capital of major companies, and it will not be long before that ambition is fully realised."

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