Michael McCarthy: The day offshore wind power came of age in the UK

A A A

Think of a big power station, a 1,000 megawatt job that can provide the electricity for a major city. Think how enormous it is, visible for miles around with its giant chimneys and cooling towers. Now think of 32 of them. Now think of 32 of them out at sea.

That’s one way of envisaging the real significance of the new programme to build offshore windfarms around the coasts of Britain, announced today by the Government.

Offshore wind has hitherto seemed like a novelty, almost a curiosity, with a few turbines here and a few turbines there, their spinning white blades spottable on the horizon from the odd seaside promenade.

This announcement envisages 6,000 of them, and maybe more, bigger than ever and sprouting from the water in gigantic windfarms in the North Sea, the Channel and the Irish Sea - generating a total of 32 gigawatts of capacity (a gigawatt is 1,000 megawatts).

Overnight it changes offshore wind from a novelty to a serious part of Britain’s energy generation, ultimately up there with coal and gas; you might say today was the day offshore wind power came of age in the UK.

The driving force behind it is Britain’s commitment to meet the EU target of generating 20 per cent of the community’s energy from renewable sources by 2020. Britain’s own share of that is 15 per cent renewable energy; and that in turn means between 30 and 40 per cent renewable electricity; at present we generate about five per cent. The gap to be bridged in ten years is therefore colossal; hence the colossal size of the offshore programme.

It has many other attractive possibilities, recognized yesterday by environmentalists. “It’s the best chance we’ve got of securing energy security, while creating thousands of jobs and giving us a position as a world leader in the green economy,” said Jim Footner, of Greenpeace.

It also means that offshore will now begin to take over from onshore wind, so hated by some people in the countryside. At present there are 2,536 onshore wind turbines turning in Britain (with another 3,177 in the planning system), compared to a mere 228 offshore windmills; but these proportions will soon be reversed.

Even though offshore wind power is more than twice as expensive to install, it does not attract planning protests from people who think their views are being spoiled, and so can grow – in theory – ad infinitum. At least, that is the case for now – until the Offshore Nimby arrives.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Frank Turner performing at 93 Feet East
musicReview: 93 Feet East, London
News
Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
news

World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

Extras
indybest
Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Case Manager - Occupational Therapist / Physiotherapist

£28000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Content Manager

£26000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Content Manager is re...

Recruitment Genius: Senior .Net Application Developer

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee