The UK government has given the green light to Centrica and Warwick Energy to build two wind farms off the North Norfolk coast, which will be able to provide enough electricity for 730,000 homes. However, a third wind farm planned for the area has been rejected on environmental grounds. RWE npower renewables hopes its planned 1.5-GW wind farm off the Welsh coast doesn’t receive the same treatment.
Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, has received consent from the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change to build its proposed Race Bank offshore wind farm project. The project, which is subject to final investment approval, could meet the equivalent annual electricity demand of over 450,000 homes.
Race Bank has been consented for a capacity of up to 580 MW, although the economics of the project remain dependent on the outcome of the Government’s Renewable Obligation banding review.
“Achieving Government consent for Race Bank is an important milestone. We will now undertake a thorough appraisal of project costs with a view to making a final investment decision on Race Bank early in 2013,” explains Mark Hanafin, Managing Director of Centrica Energy.
The wind farm is located off the Lincolnshire and north Norfolk coasts and, if developed, will be connected to the National Grid network at the existing Walpole substation. It is close to the 270MW Lincs wind farm development, which Centrica is constructing with its partners, DONG Energy and Siemens.
Consent refused for second wind farm
Centrica Energy’s celebrations regarding the go-ahead for Race Bank were, however, short-lived as the Government announced the same day it was refusing consent for Centrica’s 540-MW Docking Shoal offshore wind farm.
“This project has already incurred considerable costs [over £10 million] and has been awaiting planning consent for more than three and half years. It is essential that the UK maintains an efficient planning process without undue constraints on development if stretching renewable energy targets are to be met,” said Centrica in a press statement.
The £1.5 billion wind farm that could have powered almost 400,000 homes has been rejected by the Government because it could kill 90 small birds a year.
"It appears to come down to 94 sandwich terns," said a spokesman for Centrica, the parent group of British Gas which proposed the scheme. "It's the cumulative impact of a number of wind farms in the area on birds."
According to the Guardian, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds confessed it had opposed the Docking Shoal wind farm but said it supported the other schemes in the area. “We want to see renewable energy projects developed because we recognise that climate change will have a greater impact on wildlife [than wind turbines]. But three farms would have been an unacceptable risk.”
Third wind farm fares better
Despite the Government refusing permission for Docking Shoal, it did grant consent to another major offshore wind farm in the Norfolk areas: the 560-MW Dudgeon project being developed and operated by Warwick Energy.
Meanwhile, RWE npower renewables will be hoping the Minister of State for the Department of Energy and Climate, Charles Hendry, will look positively at its huge offshore wind farm in the Bristol Channel, after it released further details about its plans.
RWE npower renewables plans to install up to 278 turbines at the 1.5-GW Atlantic Array wind farm 22.5 kilometres from the south-west Gower coast at its closest point, and 14 kilometres from north Devon.
The company has published a draft environmental statement on the Atlantic Array ahead of a new round of public consultation. The assessment looks at several impacts of the proposed project on marine and bird life, among other things.
The project could generate the equivalent energy used by 1.1 million homes.