The biggest offshore wind turbines in the world have begun generating electricity from the North Sea. The Blyth offshore wind farm is located one kilometer from the Northumberland coast, one of the windiest places in Europe.
At 70 meters tall with blades bigger than the wings of a jumbo jet, the two wind turbines will supply two megawatts of electricity each via underwater cables to the United Kingdom's national grid system to service 3,000 homes annually.
This first offshore wind farm is expected to trigger a rapid development of offshore wind farms in the United Kingdom over the next few years.
British Energy Minister Helen Liddell, has said such a rapid development is a key element in the UK government's strategy for renewable energy.
'This is a major signal of the potential for a new energy source and a new industry for the UK. The government is making a total of 89 million pounds sterling available for offshore wind and energy crops projects.
These projects need extra support at the critical early stage towards the costs of plant construction,' she stated when formally opening the Blyth offshore wind farm.
The Blyth wind farm cost £4 million and will initially be made up of two large wind turbines, rated at two and 1.8 megawatts (MW), respectively, which will add 3.8MW of capacity to Europe's soaring installed wind energy total of nearly 9,000MW.
Because the wind is less turbulent out at sea than it is on land the turbines will suffer less stress and operate more efficiently.
Because the turbine towers are subjected to the full force of the North Sea with waves up to eight meters high, the foundations have been designed to withstand the elements and take the strain of the huge turning blades.
Theoretically, the UK is one of the windiest countries in Europe with enough offshore wind power to supply three times the country's existing electricity requirements.
The UK government's Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is considering a plan costing six billion pounds sterling to install more offshore wind farms around the coast.
The Blyth offshore wind farm has received financial support from the European Commission's Thermie programme. It will be monitored and evaluated as part of the DTI's Wind Energy Development.
Meanwhile, on the Scottish isle of Islay, two Limpet turbines of 500 kilowatts each are about to start harnessing energy from the sea to make the island's population of 3,400 self-sufficient in electricity.
The Wavegen company's Limpet project is the world's first commercially viable wave-energy power collector.
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )