2 March 2012

UK offshore wind co-ordination could cut costs

Wind farm near Liverpool. © Steveheap
Wind farm near Liverpool. © Steveheap
Britain aims to build between 11 and 18 gigawatts (GW) of wind capacity by 2020 off its coast, compared to 1.6 GW now.

Instead of building individual connections for each development, they could be interlinked to lower the overall construction and operating costs. This coordinated approach could reduce the cost of offshore connections by 8-15 percent.

To show how more co-ordination in the development of offshore links and infrastructure can be achieved, Energy regulator Ofgem and the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) have published a report. In tandem, Ofgem has launched a consultation on potential changes to the regulatory regime for offshore transmission assets to take some of this work forward.

Ofgem would assess whether anticipatory investment is beneficial to the development of an efficient network. Approval would also depend on other factors. For example, developers and the system operator would have to show that there is demand for capacity to be built, and that there is a robust benefits case for customers.

This would help meet the Government's target of reducing the cost of offshore wind to 100 pound per megawatt hour (MWh) by 2020. It could also pave the way for an offshore network in the North Sea linking wind farms off Britain's coast to other European countries.

"There are a number of ways we can reduce the cost of offshore wind, and this is definitely one of the most exciting," said British Energy Minister Charles Hendry.

"Linking up power cables between offshore wind farms could make some serious savings, so we would be crazy not to encourage it. These cables could even be linked up to European projects, increasing opportunities for trading electricity," he said.

"I now look forward to seeing the package of measures announced today implemented, and to see them build on the cost savings already being made through bringing in competition and new entrants into this sector."

Early investment in planning, developing, permitting and constructing offshore transmission will help to deliver networks in the most cost effective manner, according to Guy Nicholson, RenewableUK.

"As well as connecting the 18 GW of offshore wind generation RenewableUK expects to be operating by 2020, the offshore transmission regime can help reduce timescales and costs for both onshore reinforcements and interconnection with the rest of Europe," Nicholson said.

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