EON is set for a showdown with the Ministry of Defence after it submitted a planning application for a £700m offshore wind farm despite objections from the ministry.
The energy company's move to push ahead with the Humber Gateway wind farm, which would be one of the largest in the UK, is the first new project to have been proposed since John Hutton, the Secretary of State for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) revealed a plan to install 33 gigawatts of wind energy by 2020. That is up from the 1gw that is generated from wind power in the country today. The MoD has objected to the project, set to be located about 5 miles off the East Yorkshire coast, because it could interfere with radar equipment.
Paul Golby, the chief executive of EON UK, said he was optimistic about finding an amicable solution with the MoD. He said: "We're speaking to both the MoD and BERR and we're confident we can find a way forward that is acceptable to all stakeholders." The company first published its plan for the wind farm in 2004 when, it was at pains to point out, the MoD registered no objections.
Critics have lambasted Mr Hutton's plan as overly ambitious and unrealistic. According to conservative estimates, every gigawatt of wind energy capacity costs about £2bn to build. Once connections to the national grid are accounted for, reaching the Government's stated goal would require an investment of more than £80bn in the next 12 years. That could go even higher because of rising cost inflation for wind turbines due to the rising price of steel and other basic components. This massive investment is apart from the tens of billions foreseen to build new nuclear plants, carbon sequestration facilities and traditional power plants.
Mr Golby said: "We're currently in a race to replace up to a third of the UK's generation, which will be phased out over the next 15 years and so it's vitally important that the Government deliver a clear framework that will allow us to develop projects like Humber Gateway." The project would more than double EON's current wind generation capacity.