Offshore wind set to power Europe
Last week the UK government announced new plans to dramatically expand its offshore wind power generating capacity. The news – which could see Europe’s offshore wind energy capacity increase ten times - has reverberated around the international and local press.
With the new wind farms, the UK’s total offshore capacity could reach around 40GW. “Compare this to the UK’s current average demand for electricity of 44GW and overall generation capacity of 80GW and you can see how significant a development it is”, Wales Online said.
In the UK, the plans came as almost 100 factories were ordered to shut off their gas supplies to stop the cold weather from leaving domestic consumers in the dark. Energy experts said this was the “clearest evidence yet of a looming power crisis” of depending on fossil fuels, the Guardian reported on Sunday.
Britain’s Independent said the programme, “amounts to the biggest energy supply shake-up since the discovery of the North Sea oil and gas fields more than 40 years ago.” However, an article in the Financial Times warned that to achieve the goals offshore wind power must be developed more quickly and cheaply to make it attractive to investors.
Over in Germany, plans are also afoot to expand offshore wind power. Wolfgang Tiefensee, Germany’s transport minister, told Deutsche Welle that the German government is considering building 40 new offshore wind farms: “We are securing and creating jobs in one of the markets of the future,” adding that the plans would create 30,000 jobs in Germany. “We want Germany to be at the fore of this technology,” Tiefensee said.
Hermann Albers, President of the German wind energy association (BWE) said the plans would make Germany and the UK significantly less dependent on fossil fuels, the Spiegel reported.
On a local scale, Wales, an area already familiar to wind farms on its northern coast, is set to host two new farms – the Atlantic Array in the Bristol Channel, and in the Irish Sea. Local port authorities have welcomed the news. The Association of British Ports said both Swansea and Port Talbot were “ideally situated to support...offshore wind development in the Bristol Channel.”
Wales Online said that the news brings opportunities for Welsh universities in research and local jobs in engineering, manufacturing and construction.
Further south, where there are plans to develop a stretch of sea off the Isle of Wight and Dorset, the Dorset Echo reports that the plans could create hundreds of jobs benefitting Dorset’s recession-hit areas. “The development of offshore wind offers significant opportunities for Dorset and the UK to meet our climate change and economic objectives”, Hilary Cox of the Dorset County Council was reported as saying.
The British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) said that because offshore wind currently accounts for just 1% of installed wind capacity around the world, there has so far been little incentive for suppliers to invest in offshore manufacturing capacity. But with last week’s announcement all that is about to change.