Britain Sets Sites on Offshore Wind

Britain today unveiled plans to massively expand their offshore wind power generation capacity, with hopes for an installed capacity of 33 gigawatts by 2020, or enough to power all the homes in the UK. British Energy Secretary John Hutton made the announcement in Berlin, following the previous week’s European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) Conference at the German capital. The UK currently gets less than 2 percent of its energy from renewable sources and has less than a gigawatt of wind generation capacity.

Offshore wind power has suffered a significant number of setbacks, most of which continue to persist. Technical limitations in building the infrastructure to anchor towers to the seabed and wire electricity back to the mainland are still prevalent. Consumer hypocrisy in the form of NIMBYism has left numerous offshore wind projects dead in the water. Still, the prospect of harnessing the persistent and powerful gales on the open ocean is alluring, and Britain now seems set on becoming a world leader in offshore wind.

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Jerome a Paris attended the EWEA Conference and has a picture and graph-filled post on The Oil Drum. This map shows the current installations of offshore wind farms. A Paris speculates that although the German government just voted to support offshore wind, “the UK market is still seen as likely to be bigger than the German one over the next 10-15 years.”

Still, not all in the U.K. are in agreement over this. A strong NIMBY situation is developing in Scotland, along whose shoreline many of the turbines would be placed, as many as two turbines for every mile of coast line. “The risk is that Scotland will end up looking like a hedgehog with wind turbines all over some of our most beautiful areas,” said David Bruce, chairman of Views of Scotland, a pressure group dedicated to preserving the Scottish landscape.

And some doubt whether or not Britain can actually meet that massive 33 gigawatt goal. The AP says the wind trade body, the British Wind Energy Association, thinks it will be difficult to raise Britain’s wind power production by that much, and given the limited supply of wind turbines, predicts a goal of 20 gigawatts in that timeframe would be more realistic.

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