The Move to Greener Energy Production
The United Kingdom currently operates the largest pipeline of renewable energy content with the largest capacity offshore wind power generators in the world. These wind farms are an essential source of clean energy for the UK, providing a substantial power source with very minimal emissions or environmental effects. The United Kingdom is rapidly expanding its renewable energy platform, and its offshore wind farms provide a lucrative power contribution.
Currently, the largest offshore wind farm in the world operates off the Kent Coast with nearly 2000 megawatt capacity and more than 2300 megawatt capacity expansion planned, covering an area of 90 square miles with 175 turbines in operation. The UK leads the world in offshore energy resources, comprising more than one-third of the total European wind resource and supplying more than three times the existing energy needs of the nation at current levels. There are 18 existing and 15 proposed offshore wind farms spread along the coast of the United Kingdom, with 796 units in operation providing more than 2600 megawatts of clean, renewable energy year round.
The earliest offshore wind sources in there were the result of the Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation, which required electricity supply companies in the United Kingdom to secure a portion of their electricity from non-fossil sources. The Electricity Act of 1989 provided for the privatization of the electricity supply industry throughout Great Britain, and the Non- Fossil Fuel Obligation originally applied to the nuclear energy sector, to alleviate state ownership and funding. The original proposal was expanded early on to include the renewable sector, thereby ensuring financial support and promotion of the United Kingdom’s greenest forms of energy. Nuclear power is no longer eligible for funding under the Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation. This lucrative form of funding enabled The British Wind Energy Association (now known as RenewableUK) to build experimental offshore wind farms designed to enhance developers technical and environmental experience, as well as research and determine viable sites for future turbines. The earliest operational farm to result from this trial farm was the North Hoyle Wind Farm off Wales, completed in 2003. This farm covers an open-water area of 10 square kilometres in Liverpool Bay with 30 wind turbines generating over 1000 megawatts of green generating capacity for the United Kingdom. This amount of renewable energy is sufficient to power 50,000 homes annually. At the time it was completed, the North Hoyle Wind Farm was the most powerful in the entire country, and it garnered an overwhelmingly popular response from local residents.
The Department of Trade and Industry would go on to develop a strategic framework for the lucrative offshore wind industry as pressure increased globally to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Three new potential sites were established for further development, including Liverpool Bay, the Thames Estuary, and the Greater Wash, in the North Sea. This time, developments were not allowed to exist within 8-13 kilometres offshore to reduce the potential for eyesore and reduce the environmental impact for shallow sea birds. Additionally, 15 new projects were awarded to competitive bidders around the time the North Hoyle Wind Farm was being completed in 2003. Another round of site allocations and subsequent bids began in June 2008, and 9 additional offshore zones and contracts were announced. Some sites are still under construction, with many more having been approved and currently expected to be generating electricity by 2015.