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.

More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation NQ+

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...


Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Day In a Page

Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?