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UK: Wind power plans may be blown off course

The Crown Estate, which owns almost all of the UK’s sea bed for 12 nautical miles, is in the process of leasing out large tracts of it to developers. The largest of the planned wind farms, the London Array east of the Thames estuary, will generate up to 1,000 megawatts (mw) – enough to supply about a quarter of the homes in Greater London. Energy giant BP is developing plans for several new offshore wind farms around the UK of between 300mw and 1.5gW each.

But problems in sourcing sufficient turbines, and in planning, construction and grid connection are hampering the “wind rush”.
A recent report by a committee of MPs showed that in most of the remote locations where wind farms are being built, there is no access to the national grid. In some places, developers are facing 12-year delays before they can be connected.

There is also an urgent need to expand the industry’s skilled workforce and present opportunities for graduates. According to Brown, the resurgence of apprenticeships and the launch of the engineering diploma will help to plug the gap.

Onshore wind farms have traditionally faced much tougher opposition from the public. But Corinna Demmar, a landscape architect who carries out visual impact assessments for clients of consultancy RPS, says attitudes are changing. As well as working with local groups to allay fears over the loss of views and wildlife, she uses techniques such as painting the turbines in hues to match the average tone of the sky, to minimise their visual impact.

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