It will have taken nearly 10 years to get the first round of UK offshore wind energy projects up and running by the time the last Round 1 offshore wind farm is completed at Rhyl Flats later this year.
Back in April 2001, following a pre-qualification process, 18 companies were selected by the Crown Estate to progress projects in the first round of offshore wind farm sites on the UK seabed. This represented an unprecedented step by the then Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in pushing forward offshore wind farms. Under the agreements, the companies were given a three-year period in which to secure the required consents for a full lease to be granted by the Crown Estate.
npower renewables built the first commercial scale offshore wind farm in UK waters in 2003 between Rhyl and Prestatyn off the north coast of Wales. This 30 turbine wind farm known as North Hoyle was built with help from capital grants and now generates enough green electricity for the annual average needs of 40,000 homes.
Over 6 years later npower has purchased the rights for the development of sister project “Rhyll Flats” from Celtic Offshore Wind Limited (COWL). The site is located to the west of North Hoyle 5 miles from shore. 18 of the planned 25 wind turbines have now been constructed. Inter – array cable installation is progressing and the onshore substation at Towyn was completed earlier this year. The first export of power from Rhyl Flats Offshore Wind Farm occurred on 15 July 2009 and completion is expected by the end of 2009. An npower spokesperson said “Everying is going well and by 2010 Rhyl Flats will be offsetting the release of tens of thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide every year”.
The Government’s Energy Minister, Lord Hunt said “We’re the world number one for offshore wind generation and with Rhly Flats plugged in we’re adding to the amount of electricity we’re generating”.
Several of the Round 1 offshore wind energy sites were abandoned further to consenting or construction issues and Rhyl Flats is the last Round 1 site expected to be kicked into life.
The 3rd round of offshore wind energy projects was announced in December 2007 and will involve the investigation of a whopping 25 GW’s worth of offshore wind sites.