There is currently one working off shore wind farm, with
one other under construction and another 14 in the pipeline.
An off shore wind turbine is similar to those on shore, but
taller at almost 60 metres. The three blades - each around
35 metres long - turn as the wind blows, driving a shaft
that goes into the unit mounted at the top of the pylon.
Inside, a gearbox increases the rotation speed. A
generator then uses magnetic fields to convert that energy into
The turbines are normally situated around 5 kilometres from the
shore, in relatively shallow water around 30 metres deep. Undersea
cables take the electricity, at 700 volts, to the shore. There,
a transformer converts it to the appropriate voltage for
the UK's national grid, typically 33,000 volts.
The UK currently lags behind much of the rest of Europe in
the use of wind power, despite having over a third of Europe's
total off-shore wind potential. Europe's wind generated electricity
capacity currently meets the domestic needs of an
estimated five million people. It will also make a major contribution
to the government's targets for renewable energy and create up to
The move has been welcomed by environmental groups but
Environmental organisations Friends of the Earth and Green Peace
said they were pleased with the plans, although some sites will
face objections because of a possible impact on birds and
"Hopefully this marks the start of a massive programme to
harness the considerable opportunities offered by wind, tides
and waves," said energy campaigner Bryony Worthington.
"Renewable energy has the potential to provide all our
energy needs and is a clean, safe and affordable alternative
to nuclear energy and inefficient coal-fired power stations."
However, electricity prices may go up, as renewable energy is more
expensive than gas powered energy because gas prices are low at
The Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt announced the plans. She said
investment in energy efficiency would also be increased to
minimise energy waste from poorly insulated houses.
"As we sort out the energy efficiency side, we can make sure
the bills to consumers don't go up because people will need less
electricity to get the same amount of warmth and power."