UK Energy Policy Succumbs to Winds of Change

BLYTH, Northumberland, United Kingdom, December 8, 2000 (ENS) - Stormy weather is not all bad news in the UK now the country has opened the world's largest offshore wind project.

The UK is one of the windiest countries in Europe and potentially has enough offshore wind to supply three times the country's current electricity requirements.


Work under way to erect two 90 meter wind turbines off the UK's northeast coast this summer. (Photo courtesy Blyth Offshore Wind Limited)
Yesterday, Minister for Energy, Helen Liddell, unlocked some of that potential by officially opening the Blyth Offshore Wind Project in northeastern England.

The £4 million (US$5.8 million) project one kilometer off Blyth Harbor is not only the largest ever erected offshore but the first to be built in such a demanding position, subject to the full forces of the North Sea.

The project was developed by Blyth Offshore Wind Limited, a consortium of Powergen Renewables, Shell, Nuon and AMEC Border Wind. Work started in July, with Danish wind energy company Vestas, AMEC Marine, Seacore and Global Marine Systems as the main contractors.


Minister for Energy, Helen Liddell. (Photo courtesy Department of Trade and Industry)
The two megawatt turbines have a rotor diameter of 66 meters (216.5 feet) and rise 90 meters (295 feet) above sea level. The turbines manufactured by Vestas were lifted into eight meters (26 feet) of water in September by AMEC Marine and Seacore.

The turbines use an OptiSpeed system, which allows the turbine blades to rotate at variable speeds. The revolution speed can vary by up to 60 percent and blades can be continually adjusted in relation to the prevailing wind.

The OptiSpeed converter only transforms the energy from the generator rotor, which is a small part of the total energy generated by the system. The energy generated by the generator rotor is converted back into electricity suitable for the grid by the converter.

The turbines began generating electricity in November and at full capacity, can power 3,000 households.

"This is a major signal today of the potential for a new energy source and a new industry for the UK," said Liddell. "Rapid development of offshore windfarms over the years immediately ahead is a key element in the government's strategy for renewable energy."


One of two 66 meter diameter rotors is lifted into place. (Photo courtesy Blyth Offshore Wind Limited)
The government is making £89 million (US$128.6 million) available for similar projects under its Renewables Obligation, a consultation document published in October. The Department of Trade and Industry is considering long term investment of more than £6 billion (US$8.7 billion) worth of offshore wind farms.

"The Renewables Obligation will move this important industry from the margins to the mainstream and give a significant priority to major technological development."

Blyth was the site for the UK’s first semi-offshore wind farm that was installed on the city’s harbor wall in 1992. Nine 300 kilowatt machines were installed at that time.

Liddell said more offshore locations would be made available for windfarms.

"We will be consulting the industry very soon to establish a coordinated procedure for companies to obtain the consents they need for offshore projects," said Liddell.

"The offshore experience of oil and gas companies that are already household names will be invaluable as the UK offshore wind industry gathers momentum. We want to make it easier for companies such as these to invest in this exciting new industry and make progress with proposals."


Nine 300kw turbines were installed on Blyth Harbor wall in 1992. (Photo courtesy Blyth Offshore Wind Limited)
The Blyth project will receive financial support from the European Commission and will be monitored and evaluated as a part of the Department of Trade and Industry's Wind Energy Program.

It is seen as the first step in a new power generation industry expected to contribute almost one fifth of the country’s target for renewable energy by 2010.

In the last century, consumption of non-renewable sources of energy has caused more environmental damage than any other human activity. Electricity generated from fossil fuels such as coal and crude oil has led to high concentrations of harmful gases in the atmosphere.

This has in turn led to problems such as ozone depletion and global warming.

Renewable sources of energy, such as the wind and sun, cause less emissions and are inexhaustible.