Windpark ceremony blown out

01.09.09 THE OPENING of Windy City, England's largest offshore windpark, was delayed by an oversupply of the park's essential raw material ­ wind. Gales in the North Sea meant that the boat carrying the energy minister could not leave Lowestoft.

The UK has more than 6,500 operational wind turbines, of which more than half are sited offshore. In conjunction with other renewable energy initiatives, they should enable Britain to meet its official "green" electricity target for 2010 of 10% of the national total.

"What's so great about renewable energy like this," said the energy minister, Jonathan Bastable, "is that even a tiny turbine powering a single lightbulb makes a valid contribution." Proponents of wind-power believe they could do even better. "If they gave us our head," said Oliver Ironside of WindGen, "by wind alone we could generate three times the UK's entire national power output."

Wind does however face powerful competition. The wave-power programme, though hindered by opposition from nature conservation groups, will continue to grow. So will photovoltaics (solar-powered electricity generators fitted to buildings) and the use of "biomass" such as coppiced willow or elephant grass to replace traditional fuels in conventional power stations.

More than 200,000 hectares of farmland are growing "short-rotation coppice" to be converted into gas or oil to fuel power generation plants, which already produce about 1.8% of the national total.

"Power gets no greener," said Bastable. RG