Investments in green technology are rising in a world facing the onslaught of anthropogenic climate change. James Murray of The Guardian reports on UK’s green bank’s investments in wind farms off the Yorkshire and Welsh coasts.
The UK green investment bank (GIB) has made two of its biggest investments to date, ploughing over £460m into two of the country’s largest offshore wind projects.
The government-backed bank confirmed this morning that it is to take equity stakes in both the Westermost Rough offshore wind farm off the coast of Yorkshire and the Gwynt y Môr project off the coast of North Wales.
The company said it would invest £241m alongside Japan’s Marubeni Corporation as part of a £500m deal to purchase a 50% stake in the Westermost Rough offshore wind farm from developer DONG Energy. The project, which is expected to provide 210MW of capacity and generate over 800GWh of renewable energy a year, is in the early stages of construction.
It will become the first project in the UK to use Siemens next generation 6MW turbines that are expected to increase output and reduce the cost of offshore wind energy, compared to previous smaller turbines.
The GIB also announced that it has agreed to acquire a 10% stake in Gwynt y Môr from RWE Innogy in a deal worth £220m. The project is the largest currently under construction in Europe and is expected to boast 576MW of capacity when it comes online, providing an estimated 1,700GWh of power a year, enough to meet the electricity demand of a city the size of Bristol.
Shaun Kingsbury, chief executive of the GIB said the deal highlighted the crucial role the bank will play in driving investment in offshore wind projects.
“The UK has ambitious plans to build on its position as a world leader in offshore wind,” he said in a statement. “We have two roles to play in supporting those plans. Firstly, to directly invest to help developers recycle their capital into the next wave of new renewable energy projects. Secondly, to invest on fully commercial terms to create a demonstration effect which others will follow.”
He also highlighted the Westermost Rough wind farm as a particularly “critical project in the development of the UK’s offshore wind sector”. “For the first time we will see the commercial deployment of a 6MW wind turbine, almost double the size of the typical existing turbines,” he added. “This is an important step in reducing the costs of offshore wind construction and power generation.”
The deals were welcomed by business secretary Vince Cable, who hailed them as evidence of the “game-changing role” the GIB was playing in financing the transition to a green economy. “The bank has now invested well over £600m in five offshore wind farms and mobilised £1.3bn of total funding,” he said. “This industry has the potential to generate thousands of new skilled jobs and billions in business investment.
“Both the Westermost Rough and Gwynt y Môr projects will use Siemens turbines which demonstrates why their decision last week to build new manufacturing facilities in the UK was so important. Through our industrial strategy we are working in partnership with business to give companies the confidence to invest, securing high skilled manufacturing jobs and a stronger economy.”
Maf Smith, deputy chief executive of trade body RenewableUK, said the GIB’s first move into offshore wind farms still under development should be followed by further investment.
“It’s great to see the green investment bank moving in at an earlier stage of offshore wind development,” he said. “Offshore wind requires a lot of capital up front, so investment at an earlier stage helps industry manage risk which in turn will help deliver cost savings to this sector.
“Today’s news from the IPCC shows that we need to ensure low carbon investment is on track, and that the investment gap the Environmental Audit Committee recently warned about is filled. Helping companies to recycle funding is a great way to do that. Moving forward, we also hope the green investment bank will look at how it can help onshore wind developers to bring much needed investment into that sector.”
The announcements complete an eventful week for the offshore wind industry following SSE’s announcent it will scale back its own offshore wind projects and Siemens and Associated British Port confirmation of a £310m investment in a new wind turbine factory in Hull.
In related news, renewable energy developer RES has appealed against Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council’s decision to turn down its planning application for the proposed five-turbine Mynydd Marchywel onshore wind farm.
The council’s planning committee rejected RES’ plans at a meeting on 18 February, despite the head of planning recommending approval and there being no objections from statutory consultees. RES said the wind farm would generate enough electricity to power 10,000 homes and deliver a community benefits package of £57,500 per year – equal to around £1.4m over the lifetime of the wind farm.
Chris Jackson, RES project manager, said: “We believe that RES has very strong grounds for appeal. It will be interesting to see how the council defends their decision, because it owes its taxpayers an explanation for rejecting a renewable energy project that all the experts agree is well designed and would bring significant benefits to the local area.”
The appeal has been submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for England and Wales, and will be determined by an independent planning inspector. A date for the hearing has yet to be announced.
An environmental advocate, Janique Goff is a business development manager specializing in biotechnology startups. Visit this blog for more updates on biotechnology and environmental issues.