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UK offshore wind project in doubt

The UK has the capacity for up to 7,000 more offshore wind turbines, according to a government study, but observers say this potential may not be realised.

The UK Offshore Energy Strategic Environmental Assessment, published last week, concluded that there is scope for between 5,000 and 7,000 more offshore wind turbines in British waters, more than enough to meet the electricity demands of all the country’s homes.


The research will feed into the third round of leasing for offshore wind farm development around the coast of England and Wales, as organised by the Crown Estate.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said: “In terms of electricity, offshore wind power could potentially make the single biggest contribution to our 2020 renewable energy target, so it’s vital we maximise the UK’s natural resources to help in the fight against climate change.”

However, this week also saw further doubts cast over the future of the London Array, as one of its principle investors, E.ON UK, reportedly questioned the financial viability of the 1,000MW project.

Paul Golby, chief executive of E.ON UK, which holds a 30% stake in the project, this week told the Financial Times that the London Array’s financial viability is in doubt, due to high construction costs and the falling price of oil, gas and carbon. An E.ON spokeswoman told Environmental Finance that the company remains “absolutely committed” to the project, but acknowledged that it may be delayed. She said that projects that E.ON “can’t build today, we could build tomorrow”.

This news comes just a week after Masdar, which has a 20% stake in the project, denied it was getting cold feet.

Tom Jennings, strategy manager at The Carbon Trust, an independent company set up by the UK government to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy, said that “there really is a large risk that little offshore wind is built” beyond those which companies have already committed to. “The risk-returns do appear to be on the knife-edge of what’s attractive enough for these companies,” he added.