The British government has okayed the construction of two new offshore wind farms, one of which will be the world's largest when finished, according to a report from the BBC yesterday. The twin projects will convert wind gusting into the English Channel into enough electricity to serve the needs of an estimated one million households. The moves highlight a plan by the U.K. to accelerate production of renewable energy domestically five-fold by the year 2020.

The planned London Array off the Thames Estuary will cover 90 square miles (232 sq km) and consist of 341 wind turbines with five power substations, at a cost of 1.5 billion pounds. The second, smaller Thanet Scheme will consist of 100 turbines, located off the southeast coast of England, at a cost of 450 million pounds, by the year 2008.

The British government assented to the projects only after environmental concerns raised by citizens were addressed.

The London Array consortium—composed of E.ON UK, Shell WindEnergy Ltd., and CORE Ltd.—welcomed the news in a press release issued yesterday. "The U.K. government has a target of 10 percent of energy generation from renewables by 2010 and an aspiration to double that by 2020; to help reach these targets it is imperative that large-scale wind farms such as London Array get the go-ahead and are built in the not too distant future," Andrew Murfin, a Director of London Array Limited, said. "The U.K. faces two major long-term challenges: tackling CO2 emissions and delivering secure supplies of cleaner energy. Harnessing our indigenous renewable energy sources will make a significant contribution towards meeting both challenges."

The news was also greeted positively by the environmental advocacy group Friends of the Earth U.K., in a supporting statement. "London Array could generate enough electricity every year to meet the needs of a quarter of London's homes and cut up to 1.9 million tons of carbon dioxide every year," said Martyn Williams, Friends of the Earth's climate campaigner. "Schemes like London Array can play a significant part, but we must go further. Ministers should start by ensuring that the recently announced new climate change law will require successive government's to make annual cuts in U.K. emissions."

It appears to be a compromise that has the support of both sides of the energy debate in Britain.


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