The four test sites, two in England and two in Scotland, will allow manufacturers to test ‘next generation’ wind turbines that will drive down the cost of offshore wind farm and facilitate the expansion of the offshore industry.
Peter Madigan, Head of Offshore Renewables at RenewableUK said: "The UK is already a world-leader in terms of offshore wind farm deployed and the amount of projects in the pipeline. The proposed demonstration sites will position the UK as a centre of research excellence, encouraging manufacturers to base their operations near such research facilities."
He commented: "The offshore wind energy sector has long been seen as a side-arm of onshore wind but today’s announcement is an important step towards offshore wind becoming a mature technology its own right, fulfilling its potential as a major electricity supplier of the future."
Examples of the exciting new turbines that could be tested at the demonstration sites include:
* Clipper’s Britannia wind turbine that will have an installed capacity of 10 MW and have a blade diameter of about 150m
* A two-bladed wind turbine design from 2-B Energy
RenewableUK is the trade and professional body for the UK wind energy and marine renewables industries. Formed in 1978, and with 620 corporate members, RenewableUK is the leading renewable energy trade association in the UK.
Wind energy has been the world’s fastest growing renewable energy source for the last seven years, and this trend is expected to continue with falling costs of wind energy and the urgent international need to tackle CO2 emissions to prevent climate change.
The UK’s offshore wind power potential has been developed through a series of competitive leasing rounds by The Crown Estate, landlord and steward of the UK’s seabed. Rounds 1 and 2 provided a combined total of 8 GW of potential capacity, whilst Round 3 awarded licences for up to 32 GW of electricity in January 2010. According to data for 2008, contained in the Digest of UK’s Energy Statistics (published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change), each 1GW of installed offshore wind turbine capacity is sufficient to satisfy the annual electricity consumption of 684,000 UK households.
A recent report from RenewableUK entitled Building an Industry predicted that the UK offshore wind energy industry could create employment for 45,000 people.