Biggest Offshore Wind Farm Powers Up As UK Squabbles

Just days after what will soon become the largest offshore wind farm in the world began to produce electricity, the U.K. government found itself in a storm of controversy, distancing itself from a Tory energy minister’s critical comments about onshore wind.

John Hayes told the Daily Mail that the country “can no longer have wind turbines imposed on communities,” labeled wind power advocacy a “bourgeois left article of faith” and generally suggested the government was or at least should consider pulling back on its wind power targets.

london array world's largest offshore wind farm

image via London Array

The remarks by Hayes brought swift assurance from his boss, Energy Secretary Ed Davey, a Liberal Democrat in the coalition government, that there’s been no wobbling on wind at all. In a statement released by the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Davey said:

There has been no change to Government policy on renewable energy, as collectively agreed by the Coalition Cabinet…. There are no targets — or caps — for individual renewable technologies such as onshore wind.  Nor are there reviews being done of onshore wind on the basis of landscape or property values…. Onshore wind is one of the cheapest renewables, which is why we’ve been able to cut the subsidy.  It has an important role to play in our energy future.

The issue didn’t quite die there; Labor leader Ed Miliband clobbered Prime Minster David Cameron with the Hayes remarks during question time on Thursday, forcing the PM to assert “there’s been no change toward renewable energy.” Cameron went on:

Let me explain: we’ve got a big pipeline of onshore and offshore wind projects that are coming through. We’re committed to those. But frankly all parties are going to have to have a debate in this House and outside this House about what happens once those targets are met and he ought to understand that if he can bother to look at the substance.

Ironically, the government stepped into this mess just a few days after the world’s largest offshore wind energy plant began sending power to U.K. grid. The trio of companies developing the London Array Offshore Wind Farm, about 12 miles off the coasts of Kent and Essex in the Thames Estuary, on Monday said 151 of 175 turbines in the 630 megawatt first phase of the project had been installed.

The consortium – DONG Energy from Denmark, which own 50 percent of the project; E.On UK, which has a 30 percent stake; and Masdar, with 20 percent ownership – has a second phase in mind for the London Array that if approved would push the capacity to 870 MW.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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