The world’s largest offshore wind farm opened on Thursday last week, taking the UK’s installed wind power capacity over the 5GW mark.
Construction of Swedish utility Vattenfall’s 300MW, 100-turbine Thanet wind farm, off England’s Kent coastline, took two years and cost around £880 million ($1.4 billion).
“Each successive gigawatt we install is taking less and less time and, with the right government policies in place,we expect to be delivering between three and four gigawatts per year by the time the consented Round 3 [offshore wind] projects begin construction,” said Maria McCaffery, chief executive of industry group RenewableUK. With 1.341MW of capacity, RenewableUK said the UK has more offshore wind installed than the rest of the world combined.
“We are in a unique position to become a world leader in this industry,” said the UK’s Climate Change and Energy Secretary Chris Huhne. “We are an island nation and I firmly believe we should be harnessing our wind, wave and tidal resources to the maximum.”
North of the border, Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond today hiked the ambition of the country’s renewables targets to 80% of electricity consumption by 2020, from the previous target of 50%.
"We already have some 7GW of renewables capacity installed, under construction or consented around Scotland,” Salmond said. “Given the scale of lease agreements now in place to develop offshore wind, wave and tidal projects over the next decade, it is clear that we can well exceed the existing 50% target by 2020.”
Keith Allott, head of climate change at environment NGO WWF-UK, said that Scotland’s major increase in its renewables target shows up the need for more ambitious, UK-wide action: “The UK Government needs to take equally strong action to realise the opportunities for clean energy and green jobs in the renewables sector. Chris Huhne needs to look again at the UK’s energy policies to deliver an urgent step change in the commissioning of renewables, so that renewables are on track to meet the vast bulk of the UK's power needs by 2030."
The UK must generate 15% of all energy – including heat and transport – from renewables by 2020, as its contribution to an EU-wide target of 20% renewable energy by 2020.
By. Jess McCabe