E.On plans wind farm as doubts grow over facilities

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The Independent Online

E.On is to bolster the growing number of wind farms situated off UK coastlines by building a facility five miles off the Humber estuary, one of the largest in the UK, as energy companies look to source more electricity from renewable resources to match Government targets for tackling climate change.

The development comes amid criticism from some renewable energy organisations that many wind farms are not economically viable as many facilities are being located in inappropriate sites and thus do not catch enough wind.

E.On, which owns Powergen in the UK, will build 83 wind turbines off the coast of Yorkshire that will provide up to 200,000 homes with clean energy. The utility operates 20 wind farm facilities in the UK, both on and offshore. Paul Golby, the chief executive of E.On UK, said: "When built, this wind farm will play a vital role in the fight against climate change."

Mr Golby said the new farm, which will produce about 300 megawatts of energy, would help in the drive to meet stringent renewable energy targets as set by the European Union, with the UK government under pressure to source 20 per cent of all energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Doug Parr, Greenpeace's chief scientist, welcomed E.On's investment in renewable energy, but said the new farm needs to be looked at in the context of the German-owned company's overall strateg, which includes building new coal-fired power plants. "We want to see more investment heading into new renewable plants and less into coal-fired power stations. The notion that coal-fired power stations will be clean is a nonsense," he said.

Wind power is the fastest-growing renewable energy sector in the UK, dwarfing the progress in sourcing power from solar and tidal facilities. However, questions over the viability of many of the wind farms being built have emerged because of the low level of average wind passing some farms situated in some regions, known as the "load factor". The average load factor for a wind farm to be economically viable is about 30 per cent, and critics of the industry argue that some facilities are operating at less than 20 per cent.

However, the British Wind Energy Association has dismissed as no more than hot air claims that the Government is pouring millions of pounds into uneconomic plants, arguing that the Government only subsidises energy that is produced, not the farm itself.

Dr Parr said wind farms are not always located in the windiest places in the UK, most notably Scotland, because of the high cost of transporting the power produced on to the grid. "It's all about costs. You can say what you like about E.On but they are not stupid. What matters is the financial return and the sustainability of that return," he said.

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