Wales took the biggest step yet towards its target to become the UK’s leader in renewable energy yesterday when the government granted permission for a 750MW wind farm off the north coastWhen finished in 2014, will be the second largest in the world.
The Gwynt y Môr wind farm, to be built by the energy company Npower Renewables, will be eight miles off the coast of north Wales and, at maximum capacity, will be capable of generating enough power for the annual needs of more than 700,000 homes; it will be second only to the proposed 1GW London Array wind farm.
In February the Welsh assembly’s environment and energy minister, Jane Davidson, announced a target to source all of Wales’ electricity from clean sources by 2025. More than 30% of the carbon emissions from Wales come from electricity generation and, in a report on how to maintain supply while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the Welsh government said it wanted at least 1GW each of onshore and offshore wind farms (possibly rising to 2GW of onshore wind) as well as biomass plants. Further clean power could come from the proposed Severn barrage, a scheme to harness tidal energy that could generate up to 5% of the UK’s electricity needs.
Ed Miliband, the energy and climate change secretary, said the North Wales coast could become a powerhouse for renewable energy. “The UK must clean up its energy supply to fight the damaging effects of climate change and more wind power will help us do this. The UK is leading the world in offshore wind, and the developments off the coast of North Wales will help keep us frontrunners.”
In October the UK overtook Denmark as the world’s leader in generating power from offshore wind farms. Energy company Centrica’s completion of the 194MW wind farm off the coast at Skegness, Lincolnshire, brought the UK’s total built offshore capacity to 590MW, compared with Denmark’s 423MW.
Neil Crumpton, energy campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said Gwynt y Môr was an important step for Wales. “Projects like this are urgently needed to help tackle the immense threat of climate change and create new jobs. Gwynt y Môr will boost the green energy revolution, and cut carbon dioxide emissions by around 2m tonnes a year.”
A spokesman for the British Wind Energy Association said Gwynt y Môr brought the total offshore wind projects in planning stages to 4.5GW. “It will also set us well on our way towards reaching our 2020 renewable energy targets. The offshore sector remains vibrant.”
Npower Renewables, owned by energy giant RWE Innogy, already operates the UK’s first big wind farm, the 60MW North Hoyle array, off the coast of Rhyl in north Wales. This feeds 40,000 households with 30 turbines. The company is also constructing a second wind farm, Rhyl Flats, which is rated at 90MW and will become operational next year.
The Gwynt y Môr farm will consist of an array of 3MW and 5MW turbines with rotor blades of up to 130m. Construction will begin in 2011 and last for three years.
Greenpeace’s chief scientist, Doug Parr, said: “Our country has some of the best engineers in the world, a highly skilled manufacturing sector as well as the most powerful renewable resources in Europe. This is a big step forward, and it now needs to be followed up by an ambitious government strategy to unlock the massive potential of offshore wind to secure our energy supplies, fight climate change and create thousands of new British jobs.”
Paul Cowling, managing director of Npower Renewables, said: “The decision underlines the government’s commitment to massively expanding renewable energy generation in the UK to help tackle climate change and improve security of energy supply. We are equally dedicated to these aims, with RWE Innogy committed to spending around €1bn across Europe on renewables every year until 2012.”