U.K. gets new wind farm amid complaints from some MPs

Posted: Monday, February 13, 2012

The world’s largest offshore wind farm opened off the Cumbrian coast of Britain yesterday, signaling investor confidence even at a moment when many of the country’s parliamentarians are railing against subsidies for the sector.

The £1 billion ($1.58 billion) Walney wind farm has 102 wind turbines, with a cumulative generating capacity of 367 megawatts. That adds to Britain’s existing capacity of more than 1.5 gigawatts of installed offshore wind power and moves the country closer to its goal of 18 GW by 2020.

However, subsidies to the wind energy sector have come under fire from some members of Parliament, who say the energy produced is too expensive to justify aggressive development. More than 100 parliamentarians wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron over the weekend, urging him to cut subsidies due to unreliable energy production and a shaky national economy.

Wind energy currently costs £150 ($240) per megawatt, although the country hopes to lower that rate to £110 ($175) per megawatt by 2020.

Still, the Walney wind farm seems a testament to wind’s staying power. It is the first U.K. offshore wind farm to receive investment from a pension fund service provider, as the project is a joint venture among several utilities and OPW, a consortium of the pension fund service provider PGGM and Ampere Equity Fund.

“This investment in clean energy is aligned with the criteria in the investment policy for our clients and investors and further cements our focus on expanding renewable energy as asset class,” said Dennis van Alphen, director of OPW (Nina Chestney, Reuters, Feb. 9).