Within the space of a few days the British wind industry has taken two massive hits, with the Dogger Bank offshore wind farm being cut by 20% and the London Array expansion being cut altogether.
And while some are saying that the UK offshore wind industry is still healthy, one cannot dismiss the warning signs of two such big decisions.
According to the consortium behind the London Array’s expansion — an expansion to the world’s already largest wind farm — concerns over birdlife are behind the shelving. Dong Energy, E.ON, and Abu Dhabi-based renewable energy company Masdar announced on Wednesday that they would not proceed with the expansion because of a required three-year wait to assess the impact on birdlife.
“Phase 2 [of the London Array] has always been subject to a Grampian condition requiring London Array to demonstrate that any change caused by the additional turbines to the habitat of the red throated divers that overwinter in this part of the Thames estuary would not compromise its status as a designated environmental Special Protection Area,” said General manager Mike O’Hare
“We believe it will take until at least January 2017 for that data to be collected and, although initial findings from the existing Phase 1 site look positive, there is no guarantee at the end of three years that we will be able to satisfy the authorities that any impact on the birds would be acceptable.
“In the absence of any certainty that Phase 2 would be able to go ahead, our shareholders have decided to surrender The Crown Estate agreement for lease on the site, terminate the grid connection option, and concentrate on other development projects in their individual portfolios. Our existing operations at Ramsgate and staffing levels are unaffected.”
Instead of wildlife concerns, the consortium of RWE, SSE, Statkraft, and Statoil that make up the Dogger Bank wind farm said that they were revising their plans to focus on projects that were “likely to achieve a positive financial investment at this time.”
The decision to cut the planned development from eight offshore projects to six was made after more than four years of offshore surveys and assessments.
In response to the two announcements, Renewable UK’s Director of Offshore Renewables, Nick Medic, said that “it’s disappointing when projects don’t go ahead or are scaled back” but that the UK was “maintaining our global lead, with more capacity installed in UK waters than the rest of the world put together.”
“We have 22 offshore wind farms up and running, 5 under construction, 7 with planning consent and 11 awaiting approval. We’ve already installed 3,653 megawatts (MW) of capacity – enough to power more than two and a half million homes. We have a further 16,500 MW in the pipeline – that’s four and a half times as much capacity as we have now.”
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