Offshore wind farms blown off schedule by two years

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The Independent Online

More than half of the first phase of the UK's offshore wind farms will be built two years late, at the earliest. Developers are also warning that the second phase of much larger projects is unlikely to go ahead without government support, threatening Tony Blair's target for producing more energy from renewable sources .

The looming crisis faced by the wind industry comes as ministers begin drafting the second Energy Review in three years. Consultation for the latest review closed on Friday. The first one favoured renewable forms of energy, primarily wind power.

The first round of 13 offshore wind farms, when completed, are supposed to generate 1,500MW of electricity, enough for a city one-and-a-half times the size of Birmingham. Three of these farms are in operation, one is under construction, but two - the Scarweather Sands and Solway Firth projects off Wales - have been put on hold indefinitely because developer E.ON no longer thinks they are economically viable. Of the remaining seven projects, Centrica has now said that its Lynn and Inner Dowsing project off the Lincolnshire coast will be completed by 2008 at the earliest. The same applies to npower's Rhyl Flats project off North Wales.

The Independent on Sunday has also learnt that Shell Flat off the Lancashire coast (being developed by Scottish Power, Shell, Elsam and Tomen) will not be completed until 2009.

Developers are also doubtful of the round two projects, totalling 5,400MW to 7,200MW, going ahead at all without government support. The first-phase projects received grants, but it was hoped that with experience and economies of scale, the next round would be cheaper. Developers say costs have actually risen by one third.

Onshore wind farm projects totalling 14,000MW are also facing delays of up to 10 years to be connected to the National Grid.

Mike Davies, managing director of developer Wind Energy, wants the National Grid to connect all wind farms within three years of planning consent being granted.

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