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The UK Pushes On With Offshore Wind Developments

Posted: 29/07/2019

The UK has been named as the leader in terms of offshore wind installations in Europe. Having announced that it intends to have net zero carbon emissions by 2050, the UK’s government is working to introduce projects that help make this a reality.

And it appears that it’s making progress in at least some areas. Energy Live News revealed that the UK installed 931MW of offshore wind capacity last year, beating many other European nations that are also vying to become greener.

Denmark, Belgium and Germany were named as the other top European nations in terms of offshore wind capacity. But it’s interesting to note that Denmark, which was second in the table, only installed 374MW last year, considerably below the UK’s level.

Belgium was very close behind with 370MW and Germany finished 2018 having installed 252MW of offshore wind capacity. In total, new wind energy capacity hit 4.9GW in Europe in the first six months of the year, up from the 4.5GW recorded in the same period in 2018.

Wind energy now accounts for 14 per cent of the energy mix on the continent, up from the 12 per cent recorded in 2017. But despite considerable investment in new wind farms around Europe, at the current rate of installations, the EU is still going to fall short of its target of generating 32 per cent of its energy from renewable sources, by 2030.

Chief Policy Officer at WindEurope, Pierre Tardieu, told the news provider that although the picture looks bright for offshore wind in the first six months of the year, the picture is somewhat different for onshore installations.

“Germany has the lowest first half of the year for new onshore wind installations since 2000. Permitting challenges remain the key bottleneck: 11GW of onshore wind are stuck in the permitting process in Germany,” he explained.

Mr Tardieu also pointed out that nations around the EU are currently finalising their National Energy & Climate Plans to 2030. These should not only set out how they plan to increase the proportion of their power that’s generated by renewable sources, but also how they intend to replace any old wind farms that are coming to the end of their operational lives.

Maintaining existing and replacing older offshore wind turbines is something the UK should also consider given how many new wind farms are in the pipeline or almost ready to start operating. Ensuring that they have the necessary skilled workers to carry out maintenance and repairs in the offshore environment is essential.

It could result in the need for their employees undertaking GWO working at heights courses as well as a host of other health and safety sessions to ensure they know how to handle different situations in what can be a very hostile environment.

The UK is continuing to make the most of its windy coastlines to introduce more offshore wind power to its energy mix.

At the end of this month, the largest offshore wind farm in Scotland was officially opened by Prince Charles. The Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm, which is located around eight miles off the coast of Wick, is made up of 84 huge turbines.

It can generate enough power for 450,000 homes or 588MW of electricity. When it came online in May, it became the single largest source of renewable energy in Scotland.

The huge offshore wind installation has been under construction since May 2016 and was completed on time and £100 million under budget. It still cost a whopping £2.65 billion to establish the new wind farm though.

Throughout its 25-year lifespan, it’s expected to save some eight million tonnes of carbon emissions, Herald Scotland revealed. As well as providing a boost to the country’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions, the project also delivered a £2.4 billion boost to the UK’s economy, of which £1 billion went directly to Scotland.

Jim Smith, Managing Director of SSE Renewables, which was behind the project along with Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Red Rock Power Limited, told the newspaper that his company was “incredibly proud” to deliver the new offshore wind farm.

“We’re especially proud of the significant positive impact Beatrice has already made to the communities of Wick and Caithness, and which will last for decades to come,” he asserted.

Mr Smith continued: “The UK has the biggest offshore wind industry in the world and this world-class offshore project paves the way for future development in Scotland and the UK to help decarbonise our economy while boosting jobs and growth.”

Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, Claire Mack, echoed these sentiments talking to the BBC. She also stated: “As our offshore wind projects continue to build out, we’ll continue to see the environmental and economic benefits of offshore wind grow across Scotland, with jobs and investment transforming communities as they already are in Wick.”

Beatrice is the fourth-largest offshore wind farm in the world. The largest offshore wind farm in the world is located off the coast of Cumbria. The Walney wind farm can generate enough electricity to power 600,000 homes.

This now means that seven of the ten largest offshore wind farms are located around the UK’s coast. There’s one in Wales, one in the Thames Estuary, one that straddles the Norfolk and Lincolnshire coast, another that’s located solely on the Norfolk coast and one more that’s off the Suffolk and Essex coast.

Scotland is already looking at how it can bolster its offshore wind offering further. Energy Voice reported earlier this week that a new offshore wind industry task force met for the first time this month.

Representatives from Scottish firms and organisations met with other UK companies. The aim is to boost the talent within the sector.

One of the intentions is to build a workforce around coastal communities, who are ideally placed to work on offshore wind farms. This will also ensure that the benefits of these installations are felt by those living closest to them.

Skills professional Celia Anderson will run the group. She told the news provider that those involved “want the offshore wind industry to be the number one choice for apprentices, STEM graduates and workers from other industries looking for fresh opportunities”.

Ms Anderson added: “The sector is investing long-term in skills and championing a diverse and inclusive workforce.”

All of this comes as the UK saw low-carbon energy sources account for more than half of the country’s energy supply for the first time.

Renewables, combined with nuclear power which is considered to be low-carbon, accounted for 53 per cent of the energy generated in the UK in 2018. Overall, renewable energy produced one-third of the UK’s supply last year.

This was from a combination of wind, solar and biomass power. However, the country’s energy usage climbed in 2018 compared to a year earlier, with the Beast from the East, which hit in February and March last year, blamed for the rise as more homes needed to use their heating at this time.

Coal generation in the UK has continued to fall, In 2018, its use dropped by over five per cent, a trend that’s expected to continue.

Engineering & Technology reported on the statistics published by the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, which revealed that the UK’s carbon emissions dropped by 2.4 per cent between 2017 and 2018. This equates to 9.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide being saved.