UK approves world’s biggest offshore wind farm

Source: By Pilita Clark, Environment Correspondent, Financial Times • Posted: Thursday, February 19, 2015

Doggerbank - Image 4 Doggerbank Contact: Forewind Communications Manager, Sue Vincent on e: or m: 07768 508742.

CGI artist’s impression of the new Dogger Bank wind farm

The world’s biggest offshore wind scheme has been given the go-ahead off the coast of Yorkshire, in a move the government said was likely to create hundreds of jobs.

The Dogger Bank Creyke Beck project is expected to be one of the UK’s biggest power stations, second only to the Drax coal-fired plant in North Yorkshire and capable of supplying about 2.5 per cent of the country’s electricity.

The scheme’s developers have yet to take a final investment decision and the project will almost certainly have to secure backing under the government’s renewable energy subsidy system.

But the government’s planning consent for such a large development was welcomed by the industry.

“This is an awesome project,” said Nick Medic, director of offshore renewables at RenewableUK, the wind industry trade body. “It will surely be considered as one of the most significant infrastructure projects ever undertaken by the wind industry.”

If built, the scheme will dwarf the London Array in the outer Thames Estuary, currently the largest operating offshore wind farm, with 175 turbines.

The Dogger Bank project will be made up of two North Sea wind farms, each with up to 200 turbines. Together, they will have a maximum generating capacity of 2.4 gigawatts, about the same as the Longannet coal-fired power plant in Fife and enough to power nearly 2m homes, according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

The department said the project was expected to support up to 900 jobs, while the consortium behind the scheme claimed it could create up to 4,750 new direct and indirect full-time equivalent positions.

Either way, it is likely that some jobs may not be entirely British. Norway’s Statoil and Statkraft are two of the four companies in the Forewind consortium behind the scheme. The other two are Germany’s RWE and Scotland’s SSE.

While the UK has had more offshore wind-power generating capacity than the rest of the world combined for many years, much of it has been built by companies based abroad, a source of consternation for British ministers eager to encourage a homegrown industry.

Still, the government’s subsidy programmes have started to attract some of the biggest players in the offshore wind industry, which is much smaller than its land-based counterpart.

German turbine-maker Siemens announced last year it would invest £160m in an offshore wind turbine blade plant in Yorkshire, while its port partner Associated British Ports is investing a further £150m.

But the heavily subsidised offshore wind industry has been unsettled by several deferred or cancelled projects over the past 18 months, including a second phase of the London Array scheme.

There is some nervousness in the sector about how companies will be affected by a new set of financial incentives for low-carbon power generators. The complexity of building a power station at sea makes an offshore wind plant far more expensive to install than one on land, and the government has in effect put the industry on notice that it must lower its costs.

The Crown Estate, which manages the UK seabed, said the huge size of the Dogger Bank Creyke Beck scheme created the potential for it to be built at significantly lower cost.

The energy department, meanwhile, said the scheme would be an economic boost for Yorkshire and Humberside that would also help cut reliance on foreign fuel imports. Almost half of the costs associated with building and operating a wind farm are spent buying services and products from UK businesses, it said.