OFFSHORE WIND turbine construction in the UK on an 'unprecedented' scale is set to kick off within five years, according to British Wind Energy Association chairman Nick Goodall.
Development of the new power source follows the expected award of outline planning permission this week by the Crown Estate, which owns the sea bed in UK coastal waters.
Goodall's view was backed by energy industry experts and environmental pressure groups Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, which claimed that as many as 18 offshore sites would be approved by Crown Estates.
Taken collectively, new development arising from the Crown Estate's decision 'will be larger on a global scale than anything seen before', said Goodall.
Each site could support up to 30 turbines. Within the next five years - the time it is likely to take for developers to carry out environmental impact assessments, raise finance and gain planning consents - the capacity of individual turbines will increase from 2MW now to 3MW-3.5MW.
The UK's present 409MW wind turbine capacity is likely to be more than quadrupled.
Sites earmarked for offshore windfarms include Liverpool Bay and the Irish Sea, the Humber and Thames estuaries, Teesside, Solway Firth, Blackpool, Great Yarmouth and Skegness.
Under the Crown Estate's rules a consortium or company can bid to develop only one site.
Bids have been put in by Renewable Energy Systems (RES), Powergen, British Energy and Amec Border Wind, among others.