London Array expansion scrapped and Dogger Bank scheme scaled back.
Renewables firms have warned that the UK’s wind energy plans could suffer further blows after two developers scaled back their offshore schemes last week.
The consortium behind the huge London Array wind farm in the Thames Estuary, led by Denmark’s Dong Energy, scrapped a proposed 240MW expansion because of planning uncertainties.
And energy firm Forewind - comprising the UK’s SSE, and Norway’s Statkraft Statoil, said it would develop six projects in the Dogger Bank zone of the North Sea, rather than eight as originally intended, so it could focus on other schemes.
The moves come a few weeks after German energy giant RWE discarded plans to build a 1.2GW wind scheme in the Bristol Channel.
“There is a risk we will see more scaling back of plans - but a number of factors go into these decisions,” trade association RenewableUK offshore renewables director Nick Medic told NCE.
He urged the government to keep a close eye on subsidy levels for wind power and to commit to supporting the renewables agenda post-2020.
“The price of offshore-generated energy needs to be sufficient to reflect that it is not at the same stage of development as some other renewable forms,” said Medic.
“We also need an ongoing commitment to decarbonisation and a sense that the programme will not suddenly be curtailed.”
But he said the UK was on course to meet its European Union target of producing 15% of its energy from renewable sources by the end of this decade.
“I am absolutely confident that we will hit the target,” he said. “There are a lot of technology breakthroughs still to come.”
The Dong Energy-led consortium, which also includes the UK’s Eon and Abu Dhabi’s Masdar, was put off the second phase partly because of the fact that there is a three-year wait to assess the impact of the planned expansion on Red Throated Diver birds that spend winter in the area.
London Array general manager Mike O’Hare said: “In the absence of any certainty that phase two would be able to go ahead, our shareholders have decided to surrender the Crown Estate agreement for lease on the site, terminate the grid connection option,
and concentrate on other development projects in their individual portfolios.”
Forewind said a four-year assessment process had led it to focus on more financially viable projects than the remaining Dogger Bank schemes.
General manager Lee Clarke said the first two projects were about to be examined by the Planning Inspectorate, with applications for two more to be submitted by the spring.
“Together these four projects represent more potential capacity than all the offshore wind farms currently installed and operating in UK waters,” he said.
In December, RWE cited technical challenges as it gave up on plans to build the Atlantic Array wind farm in the Bristol Channel.
It said substantially deeper than anticipated waters and adverse seabed conditions had made the project uneconomic.
After the decisions to curb development, the government insisted, in a report out last week, that maximising the economic benefit from offshore wind was a key priority.
It said the UK had 3.6GW of installed operating capacity in January, with a further 1.4GW under construction.
“The UK is the world leader in offshore wind - with more deployed than any other country, and a framework in place to retain our global lead,” said energy minister Michael Fallon.
“The benefits that offshore wind can bring are clear: as costs fall it can enhance our long-term energy security, reduce our dependence on imports and help reduce our carbon emissions. Crucially, offshore wind can play a vital role in driving growth - adding billions of pounds of value to the UK economy and supporting thousands of jobs.”