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UK Offshore Wind Capacity Grows 80% In A Year, Expect More To Come

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The United Kingdom’s offshore wind sector installed capacity has grown by 79% over the period of July 2012 to June 2013, according to a new report released by trade group RenewableUK.

London Array - The world's largest offshore wind farm

London Array – The world’s largest offshore wind farm

The installed capacity of the UK’s offshore wind sector grew from 1,858 MW to 3,321 MW over the period, thanks in part to four massive wind farms going operational at Greater Gabbard, Gunfleet Sands III, Sheringham Shoal, and London Array. It helped that the London Array is the world’s largest offshore wind farm, measuring in at 630 MW.

Including onshore wind into the equation, a growth of over 40% was seen over the period in the UK, but the real prize was offshore, with more wind capacity installed offshore than onshore for the first time ever. Onshore did OK, but only managed a growth of 25%, measuring in at 1,258 MW of new capacity coming into operation over the July’12-June’13 period.

“We’ve smashed another record in the past year with more offshore wind installed than ever before – the 79% increase in capacity within 12 months is a terrific achievement,” said RenewableUK’s Chief Executive, Maria McCaffery. “With onshore expanding by 25%, the wind industry as a whole has proved that it has the tenacity to achieve substantial growth. It’s tangible proof of the dedication of thousands of Britons who are working tirelessly to generate electricity from a clean, home-grown source at a cost that we can control, increasing the UK’s energy security.”

In total, the UK’s wind capacity reached 9,710 MW at the end of June 2013, an increase of 40%, which amounts to enough power to operate more than five and a half million UK homes, and brought an added £2 billion of activity to the UK economy.

Part of the reason that onshore wind is diminishing is thanks to the growth of the sub-5 MW market flourishing under the government’s Feed-in Tariff program, with more than two-thirds of onshore submissions falling into this category.

The report’s authors noted that the UK’s wind industry is beginning to feel the lack of confidence coming down from the government, despite a strong pipeline of projects currently working their way through.

The report was released a day before the UK Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, speaking at the Renewable UK conference in Birmingham, confirmed plans for the development of up to 39 GW of offshore wind capacity in UK waters by 2030.

“Offshore wind will be a crucial part of our energy mix well beyond 2020,” said Davey, adding: “Our draft Delivery Plan set out a scenario showing up to 39 GW of offshore wind by 2030.”

Davey announced that four separate offshore wind projects will receive a share of £2.5 million of investment by the Government to develop technologies that will continue to drive down the cost of offshore wind technology. The Energy Secretary noted that “investment in innovation now will improve the affordability of the technologies we deploy in the future; reduce bills for households and businesses; and strengthen energy security.”

The four projects and their share of the funding are:

  • Ricardo UK Ltd – awarded £634,980 to develop and demonstrate its Offshore Wind Drivetrain Innovation technologies which are expected to increase the reliability and lifetime of drivetrains for large offshore wind systems.
  • Nottingham-based TetraFloat Ltd – awarded £134,000 to validate and improve a novel floating platform design.
  • Blade Dynamics Ltd – awarded £842,630 to design, evaluate, build and test an innovative composite wind turbine hub. This will reduce the loads on the entire turbine, tower and foundation.
  • SSE Renewables UK Ltd – awarded a grant of £1 million for their National Offshore Wind Turbine Test Facility project. Among other things this will test foundations, logistics, and grid integration on Siemens 6MW pre-production turbine.

His speech was directed at renewable energy as a whole, where he explained that “the renewable energy sector supports 35,000 green jobs and the sector is crucial to green growth and energy security” before adding that “a mix of technologies is vital to secure Britain’s energy supplies and reduce the environmental impact of powering our homes and businesses.”

“Investment in innovation now will improve the affordability of the technologies we deploy in the future; reduce bills for households and businesses; and strengthen energy security by offering a range of technology options for the UK to deploy. Successful innovation could save the UK up to £160 billion in energy supply costs to 2050 and contribute up to £89 billion to the UK economy over the same period.”

At the same time as Davey’s speech and promise to the wind industry, the Department of Energy & Climate Change released an updated version of the UK renewable energy roadmap. The roadmap, among other things, showed that the last year had been one of the most successful years for the British renewable industry, “with big leaps forward in actual deployment and newly announced projects” as well as a reported 76 percent public approval of the use of renewables in publicly generated electricity.

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