Is the future bleak for UK offshore wind farms?

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Is the future bleak for UK offshore wind farms?

The future of offshore wind farms across the UK has been cast into doubt over the past few weeks, sparked by the coalition government’s indecision about their climate change policy.

With a major planned offshore wind farm across Britain being scrapped, as well as Prime Minister David Cameron publically declaring at a recent Prime Minister’s Questions that his party is hoping to roll back green taxes, wind power faces very uncertain times ahead.

So, is there any way back for the UK’s offshore wind farm industry, or has the wind been taken out of the sails where this sector is concerned?

 

The effects of the coalition government’s climate change policy disputes 

Lord Stern, the author of the renowned 2006 Stern Report, has spoken out about the current climate change policy dispute that is going on in the Houses of Parliament.

Speaking to backbenches who make up the Commons’ energy and climate change select committee, Lord Stern stated his belief that the arguments are having a detrimental effect on investor confidence.

Quoted by The Ecologist, Lord Stern warned: “We’ve seen quarrelling in the coalition, suggestions of a review of the fourth carbon budget and suggestions of a review of green levies.

“What that does is undermine confidence … I think there’s a risk of going backwards, but that risk is itself damaging in choking off investment.”

Any reduction in investment could potentially prove very damaging to companies involved in the running of the UK’s offshore wind farm industry. This ranges from businesses which harness wind power, to sub sea cable firms like Fraser Hydraulics, which assist with the manufacturing of wind farms.

 

Offshore wind farm projects facing the axe 

As mentioned earlier, the offshore wind farm industry suffered a hefty blow when it was announced that an eye-catching major development in the UK was shelved.

RWE’s revealed its decision earlier in November that it had pulled the plug on what would have been the world’s largest offshore wind park – a site which has the potential to power up to 900,000 households across Britain.

The German utility firm stated to Reuters that it is no longer constructing the 1.2-gigawatt Atlantic Array wind park, which would have featured off the coast of south-west England.

RWE has dismissed claims that the move came as a result of the confusion surrounding the coalition government’s climate change policy though, instead stating that the decision was due to technical issues.

“It’s 100 per cent down to the project,” Richard Sandford, RWE’s Head of European Projects Offshore, told BusinessGreen.

 

Is there any light at the end of the tunnel for UK-based offshore wind farms?

Mr Sandford did give hope for the future of the UK’s offshore wind farm industry. Regarding the potential of the Bristol Channel, he said: “In the future, it could be really good. They’ve got a really good wind resource there and the Bristol Channel itself is famous for its high currents and its deep water, but for today’s technology, it doesn’t work.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also stressed that the facts should speak volumes about the positioning of the UK where offshore wind farms are concerned, and that the industry is just going through a patchy period.

He pointed out to The Ecologist: “We’re now world-beaters on offshore wind technology; per head we now have more installed offshore wind capacity than any other country in the world.

“I have absolutely no doubt in my own mind that you can go green without costing the earth. The balance is how you get from A to B and how you make sure at a time when people are quite rightly anxious about these sky-high bills that you identify what the problem is and you try and do something about it.”

Greener Ideal is an independent environmental news and lifestyle publication that has been curating content since 2008 to further the green movement. The views expressed by contributing authors are their own and may not reflect those of Greener Ideal.

  • Dave2020

    A pause in deployment (if that’s what it is) could be a blessing in disguise, since offshore technologies are so immature they’re not really fit for purpose. “for today’s technology, it doesn’t work.” Even more so than Richard Sandford realises, I think.

    In the case of the Bristol Channel we need a paradigm shift to energy storage and total integration of marine renewables. The Atlantic Array should be redesigned from the ground up – using WEC-stabilised VAWTs and before-generator energy storage. Ideally, it would feed water, under pressure, to replenish further accumulators, which form a dam across an expanded Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon.

    Followed to its logical conclusion, this principle (BGES) must also be adopted for the Bristol Channel (aka Severn) Barrage. That should be constructed from cylindrical (not box) caissons (manufactured in Port Talbot), thus creating another very valuable, and much bigger, SHARED energy storage facility.

    “per head we now have more installed offshore wind capacity than any other country in the world.” That doesn’t make us world-beaters in offshore wind technology, Nick. We build very little of this stuff (it’s imported) and lack the skills to design it. Another abject failure by UK plc.

  • Tomboy77

    Solar, not wind, if you’re a physicist. Not wind under the present subsidy regime, if you are an economist, because it’s too expensive and the money goes to people who have already damaged the environment, empowering them to do even more damage (and it’s so expensive, if you add in the back-up costs, that a revolt against it was inevitable). Not wind in the kinds of places (e.g. Mainland Shetland, 103 turbines) they are planned, because of the damage to the land and bird populations, if you are a genuine environmentalist. In short, not wind. We have to stop throwing money at big landowners and offshore subsidy harvesters and invest in the research that will bring us viable renewables. We also have to spend a huge amount more on protecting the vulnerable, at home and abroad, from climate change impacts. Whta has happened is that the green energy debate has been hijacked by greenwashing landowners and development companies and we should all be ashamed for letting them get away with it.