Wind power seems to be having its day in the sun of late. In May, it was announced that “Britain’s Queen Elizabeth is investing in the world's largest offshore wind turbine and also in the development of offshore windfarms in Scottish waters.” Clipper Windpower out of California is building the 7.5 megawatt MBD turbine for the $65 million “Britannia Project” for HRH.
The turbine is set to be operational by 2010, with all the power generated being sold to the national grid. With a 30 year lifespan, it will generate the equivalent amount of electricity as a million barrels of oil.
Further, once again the royal family is taking a leadership role and setting the rules for future development of wind power in the breezy Scottish waters. One thing about having a crown, unlike politicians that are in and out of office and dependent too often on appeasing both voters and the lobbyists that pay for their elections, the royal family can take a long view of the future and act accordingly. This was also recently demonstrated in Prince Charles decision to help secure the future of 1000 of the rarest British apple breeds by becoming caretaker to one of three sets of the saplings.
Given that the Crown Estate, the Queen’s property company, holds almost the entire UK territorial seabed out to 12 nautical miles, plus leasing rights far beyond, and more than half of the UK’s coastal foreshore, the Queen’s support for offshore wind energy could have an enormous impact on Great Britain’s clean energy future and ability to meet it’s 2020 renewable energy targets. The Crown Estate has already put out a call for proposals from developers interested in raising commercial scale windfarms in Scottish waters.
HRH has also signed a lease agreement for a windfarm in the Thames Estuary near the Suffolk coast. Construction is set to begin in 2009. Once complete, the 140 turbines there will generate enough electricity to power more than 415,000 homes.
At the same time, Norway is looking to harvest its windy seas with huge offshore wind parks that could help power large parts of Europe, according to Norwegian Oil and Energy Minister, Åslaug Haga. This is big news considering that Norway is the world’s 5th largest oil exporter. But rather than pander to the oil industry there, the government is highlighting the huge economic potential in clean, wind energy; i.e., they are telling businesses to be in the energy business without being tied to fossil fuels.
They are planning for back up capacity through hydro-electric reservoirs, to offset some of the unpredictable nature of wind. Considering that Norway contains almost half of the reservoir capacity in Europe, their desire to be ‘Europe’s battery’, and do it using clean energy, may not be a stretch. Already, most of the countries energy comes from hydro-power. They are even looking at powering offshore oil and gas platforms using floating wind turbines and StatoilHydro is investing $80 million to have the first full-scale floating wind turbines starting in 2009.
The Norwegian Energy Council believes that they can produce 20 terrawatt hours of energy a year from offshore wind and another 20 from other renewable energy sources by 2025. Given Norway’s track record on renewables, that hardly seems to be hot air.