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New mega offshore windfarms could supply 2% of UK energy

Likely to be offshored in more senses than one, though

British wind farmed by British workers... or not

The ROC scheme, however, does nothing to ensure that turbines will be made in Blighty or even erected/maintained by British workers. The UK's only wind-turbine factory was shut down by its owners last year in favour of investments in China and the US, and current offshore wind projects - as is normal in much of maritime industry - are already making use of cheap foreign labour.

The British wind-biz industry body says that more government help over and above the ROC scheme would be necessary if the hoped-for green jobs bonanza is to appear.

"Upgrades to the UK’s electricity grid will be required," said the British Wind Energy Association in a statement on Friday. "Government commitments are needed to ensure that upgrades and extensions are built to carry the renewable energy power produced in windy and offshore areas to customers through the UK."

The windbiz spokespersons continue:

BWEA argues that the Government needs to lead on upgrades to UK ports to provide state-of-the-art quayside facilities and create coastal manufacturing and research hubs for manufacturers... With new turbine assembly plants in UK ports, domestic manufacturers would be able to enter the component supply market for gearboxes, bearings and castings.

The BWEA didn't make clear how the government should fund the necessary moves.

Different energy analysts have also warned that a large proportion of erratic wind electricity supply will also increase the cost of the remaining "thermal" generators. As this would be on top of ROC-driven price increases, a need to upgrade the national grid, and unspecified subsidies or levies to make sure the offshore industry doesn't go offshore, the final pricetag for the new wind farms and their two per cent CO2 cut looks like being a big one.

Last week's licences, however, are no guarantee that the full 32 gigawatts of capacity will ever appear, or indeed that any of it will. Most of the licencees gave no date for a firm decision, but the government's extension of double ROCs to 2014 offers investors some breathing space. The go/no-go call on the Dogger Bank project, largest of them all at nine gigs, is expected - funnily enough - in "late 2014". ®

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