Breezy Britain reaps the whirlwind

First offshore wind farm set to power a town and generate environmental ists' hopes for renewable energy

PowerGen is planning to build Britain's first offshore wind farm two miles off the Norfolk coast. If the complex of 25 giant turbines goes ahead it could give wind energy development its biggest boost ever in the UK.

There are more than 30 land wind farms, thanks to both a subsidy scheme funded by electricity consumers through their bills, and to the fact that Britain is Europe's windiest large nation. The industry has always looked to moving offshore, where the winds blow stronger and steadier and the environmental conflicts found inland can be minimised.

But in Great Yarmouth, from where the turbines would be visible, there was some concern at the proposal, particularly about the affect on the large numbers of seals which sometimes bask at low tide on a sandbank less than an quarter of a mile from the proposed site.

The 25 turbines would stand over 150ft tall from the tips of their topmost blade. They would be built on platforms in 13ft-deep shallows, and generate enough power for a town of 56,000 people. PowerGen, Britain's second biggest generator, has submitted its project to the Department of Trade and Industry along with dozens of plans from other developers backing onshore wind farms. All of them are seeking the consumer subsidy used to fund renewable energy systems in Britain. PowerGen is also negotiating with the Crown Estate, which owns the seabed.

PowerGen plans to use new 1.5 megawatt turbines, two or three times the power of those being installed in onland farms. They would be made by the Danish firm Vesta, although there are hopes that many British- made components will be used.

"This proposal is very good news," said Dr Ian Mays, President of the European Wind Energy Association and managing director of UK wind farm developer Renewable Energy Systems. "We have a huge wind resource offshore, and I'm sure the UK industry will be taking increasing advantage of the growing market here and overseas."

There are just three offshore wind farms in the world, all in Europe. Britain's first wind farm opened less than five years ago - 10 electricity- generating windmills on a Cornish hilltop.

Wind farms in Britain generate sufficient electricity for a city the size of Bristol, but they have always been at the centre of debate. Conservationists have deplored the siting of several of them in beautiful upland areas. Some are next to national parks.

Sir Bernard Ingham, former press secretary to Margaret Thatcher, has railed against them and is honorary president of an anti-wind farm group.

The environmentalist, Jonathan Porritt, says he finds their slim shapes and slowly turning blades a beautiful and exciting pointer to a greener future.

Wind farms are close to being able to compete with conventional fossil fuel sources of energy. The price of wind-generated electricity has dropped steadily as the turbines have become mass-produced and reliable. The windiness of the site is all-important because the amount of power available is proportional to the wind-speed cubed.

But turbines usually have to be kept 300 metres from the nearest home because of noise. They cannot be close to trees because these interfere with windflow. The hilltop wind farm at Penrhyddland near Llandinam, Powys, which has 103 turbines, has plagued neighbours living some distance away with its noise.

Wind generation could supply 10 per cent of UK electricity by 2025 with little increase in power bills, but there would be have to be many hundreds of wind farms, and they would dominate much of our breezy western and upland countryside. That is why the move offshore is so significant.

The great majority of turbines installed in Britain are imported. About pounds 60m of Government money has been sunk into wind research and development but this has not yet given Britain a strong windpower industry.

One reason is that much of this taxpayers' money was spent developing vast multi-megawatt turbines much larger than those in demand today.

The Danish strategy proved much more successful; the government there subsidised demand heavily during the 1980s, leaving it to the manufacturers to decide what were the most cost effective machines. Now its industry has a world lead.

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup