The go-ahead has been given for the world’s biggest offshore wind farm to be built just 80 miles off the Yorkshire coast. The scheme will see 400 turbines spaced over 430 square miles and will cost taxpayers £10.5 billion in subsidies, but it will only supply 2.5 percent of Britain’s energy needs – on a good day.
Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary, has granted planning permission for the scheme to be erected on Dogger Bank in the North Sea, saying: “Making the most of Britain’s homegrown energy is creating jobs and businesses in the UK, getting the best deal for consumers and reducing our reliance on foreign imports. Wind power is vital to this plan, with £14.5billion invested since 2010 into an industry which supports 35,400 jobs,” the Daily Mail has reported.
When complete the wind farm, known as Creyke Beck, will be twice the size of the London Array, the world’s current largest wind farm. And it could grow even bigger if nearby Dogger Bank Teeside is also given the go-ahead.
Currently, there are 1,200 wind turbines in British waters, but the government has indicated that it would like to see this increased to 3,000 by 2020. However, the Royal Academy of Engineering has calculated that each turbine built offshore costs taxpayers an extra £300,000 a year in public subsidies.
The building costs for Creyke Beck are expected to amount to £8 billion, to be borne by Forewind, a consortium made up of energy companies SSE, RWE, Statkraft and Statoil. But inclusion in the government’s subsidy program ‘Contracts for Difference’ would see the companies granted a fixed price for the energy they generate, guaranteeing them payment of £10.5 billion over 15 years, amounting to £700 million a year.
The decision on whether or not to include Creyke Beck within the Contracts for Difference program won’t be made until 2017, and will be the decision of whoever is Energy Secretary at the time. Forewind has indicated that it will not start construction unless the wind farm is included in the scheme.
But industry experts have warned that the size of the scheme is so large that it could disfigure the British economy. “The Creyke Beck offshore wind farm would receive about £700million a year, and all drawn from consumer bills,” said Dr John Constable, director of Renewable Energy Foundation.
“Additional energy costs on this scale will affect the course of British economic history, and not for the better. The last time public subsidies on this scale were directed towards a single industry it was called British Leyland [a failed part-nationalised car company]. Arguably, not a good omen.”