Wind turbines

Offshore wind farms approved by government

Two offshore wind farms off the Norfolk coast with a combined capacity of one gigawatt (GW) have been given the go-ahead.

However a third project was turned down because of concerns over the impact it could have on seabirds protected by environmental legislation.

The two approved wind farms at Race Bank and Dudgeon in the Greater Wash off the Norfolk coast could generate enough electricity to power 730,000 homes.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said the projects represented around £3 billion of investment.

"The UK is racing ahead of the global field and these two new offshore wind farms underline this momentum," said Energy Minister Charles Hendry.

"These two projects will not only bring us considerable amounts of clean energy, but significant investment and jobs too.

"We have also shown that we are mindful of other consequences, such as the impact on bird populations, in deciding it would not be appropriate to consent all three applications."

Docking Shoal wind farm, also off the Norfolk coast, was not given the go-ahead because of the potential impact on Sandwich terns, whose colonies at Blakeney Point and Scolt Head Island fall within a "Special Protected Area", which is protected under EU wildlife laws.

The total amount of offshore wind power now operational, under construction or consented has reached 6.6GW.

"Achieving government consent for Race Bank is an important milestone," said Mark Hanafin, managing director of Centrica Energy which plans to build Race Bank wind farm.

"We will now undertake a thorough appraisal of project costs with a view to making a final investment decision on Race Bank early in 2013."

Centrica said the economics of the project depended on the outcome of the review of renewables subsidies currently being undertaken by the Government.

The company was also behind the failed bid to build a wind farm at Docking Shoal, and warned that the project had accrued considerable costs and had been awaiting planning consent for more than three and half years.

Centrica said the UK needed to maintain an efficient planning process if it was to meet targets to boost renewable energy over the next decade.

"This decision is a tremendous boost for the offshore wind energy sector, creating hundreds of jobs, stimulating billions of pounds worth of investment and setting the UK firmly on the path of reaching its 2020 renewable energy targets," said Maria McCaffery, chief executive of industry body RenewableUK.

"In total we now have close to 6.6 gigawatts of offshore projects operational, in construction and with planning consent.

"This is a globally unrivalled pipeline of offshore wind farms, which has attracted significant investor interest from around the world."

She called for a decisive push to get the next round of offshore wind projects through planning in order to build enough capacity so that offshore wind could supply 20 per cent of UK electricity by 2020.

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