Off-shore wind feasible says report

There is scope to build between 5,000 and 7,000 more wind turbines off the coasts of the UK, an environmental study for the government has confirmed.

The strategic environment assessment (SEA) by experts who studied UK sea geology, surveyed seabirds, tagged marine mammals and charted fishing, shipping and other industries, said plans to develop another 25GW (gigawatts) of wind power were feasible.

The proposals by the government, which would be in addition to the 8GW currently built or in development, would provide enough wind energy to power the equivalent of almost all the homes in the UK.

According to the study, the thousands of extra turbines, which would occupy up to 10,000 square kilometres, would have the "potential to result in significant environmental effects" to areas and landscapes with national and international protected status, and other uses of the sea.

Coastal areas are home to many habitats, for example seabirds, as well as valuable for tourism and other industries including fishing, shipping and recreational sailing.

As a result, the bulk of wind farm development should be well offshore - more than 12 nautical miles (22km) from the coast, the report recommended.

But it said there were "no overriding environmental considerations" which would stop the offshore wind programme, along with development of oil and gas development and storage, as long as steps were taken to address impacts on the environment and other uses of the sea.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said: "In terms of electricity, offshore wind power could potentially make the single biggest contribution to our 2020 renewable energy target so it's vital we maximise the UK's natural resources to help in the fight against climate change.

"This report provides a real advance in our understanding of the ecology and geology of the UK marine environment so we can continue to ensure that projects like wind farms are built in the most suitable places and that we will also protect the natural environment."

Friends of the Earth renewable energy campaigner Nick Rau said: "We're delighted that the government has confirmed the massive potential for off-shore wind energy - it must now make sure that it becomes a reality.”

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