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Wind powers the Falklands as oil drilling begins

The Falkland Islands are the focus of a double energy drive this weekend as explorers begin drilling for oil and three giant wind turbines start generating electricity.

The Ocean Guardian rig begins drilling today off the north coast, amid hopes that reserves in the region could yield up to 60bn barrels of oil.
At the same time, the three wind turbines being started up this weekend will bring a more immediate benefit. With the three already there, they will provide on average 40% of the islands’ power and are likely to help slash electricity bills for the 3,140 residents.

The hunt for oil has again strained diplomatic relations between Britain and Argentina, which still claims sovereignty of the islands.

The City, however, has shrugged this off and shares in Desire Petroleum, the main operator of Ocean Guardian, rose 13 per cent last week.

Shares in other oil groups with interests in the Falklands have also risen steadily over the past few weeks as drilling has drawn closer.

But some islanders are sceptical about the promised oil boom. Glenn Ross, manager of the Falklands’ power station in the capital Port Stanley and a member of the islands’ Legislative Assembly, said: ‘We are all pretty cynical about the oil.

‘We have been here before and I doubt whether we will ever see much of it. Put it this way – we have not spent any money yet.’

Ross and others are more interested in the potential for wind power as the territory is one of the windiest places on Earth.

Islanders have depended on diesel-generated energy, but after a £5m investment programme they will now become virtually self-sufficient.

There are plans to buy a giant two-megawatt battery capable of storing energy for an hour when the power from the turbines is not needed.