Windfarm work to start within a month

WORK on the world's largest off-shore wind farm - close to the Essex and Suffolk coast - is expected to start in the next four weeks, it emerged yesterday.

Kate McGrath

WORK on the world's largest off-shore wind farm is expected to start in the next four weeks, it emerged yesterday.

Construction of the 140 turbines at Greater Gabbard, in the outer Thames Estuary, was initially planned to begin next year, with completion due in 2010, but the companies behind the £950m project are hopeful work will start next month.

The scheme will provide enough power to supply electricity to more than 415,000 homes and will cut carbon emissions by 1.5m tonnes a year - the equivalent of taking 350,000 cars off the road.

The project is a joint venture between Airtricity and US firm Fluor - with sub-contracts, which could benefit local companies, expected to be announced soon.

Plans for the wind farm, which was approved in February last year, have been widely welcomed.

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Harwich MP Douglas Carswell said: “My view is that this is fantastic news, because putting these things out to sea is the best place for them.

“In my constituency, some residents have very strong feelings about five of these turbines being proposed for land between Clacton and St Osyth, and that is the wrong place for them.

“The feeling is that as we are building dozens of these things out at sea, why not just build another five there, where people are not affected by them.”

The windfarm will produce 500mw of electricity and its connection to the National Grid will be achieved via a substation at Sizewell. The turbines will rise to about 170m above sea level and will be barely visible from the shore.

It will be located approximately 25km off the Essex coast, close to two shallow sandbanks - the Inner Gabbard and the Galloper.

John Hutton, Secretary of State for business and regulation, said: “Airtricity's investment in Greater Gabbard is very welcome and a prime example of the increasing number of renewable projects that are now taking place across the UK.

“The massive potential of the UK shoreline coupled with the right market conditions mean the UK is one of the most attractive places in the world to invest in off shore technology.

“Through the Energy Bill we are providing more financial support to offshore projects, and in the summer we will be setting out our plans to increase renewables further. Tackling climate change and securing future energy supplies is of the utmost importance and a vast expansion of both onshore and offshore wind will be central to this.”

Airtricity is the renewable energy development division of Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE).

Ian Marchant, chief executive of SSE, said: “The UK wants to respond to climate change and become more self-sufficient in energy, so it makes sense to exploit the excellent resource that UK offshore wind represents.”

Mr Marchant said that on completion Greater Gabbard will be the largest offshore wind farm in the world.

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