Green Wales

Page last updated at 07:41 GMT, Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Landmark as offshore wind farm is officially opened

Wind turbines at Rhyl Flats
Rhyl Flats' 25 turbines are enough to power 60,000 homes, it is claimed

Wales' largest wind farm - the Rhyl Flats off the coast of north Wales - has been opened officially by Welsh Secretary Peter Hain in Llandudno. It is expected to be fully operational by the end of the month, and BBC Wales environment correspondent Iolo ap Dafydd visitedthe site as it prepared to generate power.

Investing in wind requires a 100% upfront investment. And that in an energy source considered to be one of the least predictable.

Earlier this year the installed wind power in the UK topped 4 gigawatts (GW) - enough to power 2.3m homes, says the October edition of Renewable Energy magazine.

At the official opening at Venue Cymru in Llandudno, Conwy, the importance of the fledgling wind power industry was given the political boost of having Peter Hain, the Welsh secretary of state, in attendance.

"I am convinced Wales is uniquely placed to become a world-leader in renewable energy generation," said Mr Hain.

"In Wales we are surrounded by wind, wave and tidal resources just waiting to be exploited, which puts us in a prime position to benefit from the jobs and investment that will be created through the UK's green economy, through projects such as Rhyl Flats and Gwynt y Mor.

"By 2020 there is a potential for 86,000 jobs to be created and many billions invested into the economy across the UK through exploiting all our wind and tidal resources. This will have a huge impact on the green economy of the UK."

Flying in from Germany was one of the big bosses of the German RWE company - Jurgen Grossman.

Rhyl Flats is a landmark. Only the ninth completed offshore wind farm in Britain, but the first of several still in planning or in the process of being built.

The UK government - which decides on all power generating schemes in Britain over 50 megawatts (MW) - wants to encourage more turbines out at sea.

BBC Wales environment correspondent Iolo ap Dafydd takes a look four miles off shore at the huge development.

This is despite high maintenance costs, and offshore wind farms costing twice as much to build as those on land.

Planning and National Grid infrastructure are two gripes developers moan about.

And there is the glaring uncertainty of shipping most of the turbines, blades, towers and machinery in from continental Europe - as the industry in Britain, and in Wales, seems to muddle on slowly.

The opposite in fact, of speeding up the government's target of increasing electricity output from renewable energy, from roughly 5% to 15% by 2020.


Paul Cowling, managing director of RWE npower renewables, says: "Look at the UK, and really we are quite poor in terms of what we have as our installed base of competent able suppliers in the wind industry.

"Most of the equipment comes from outside the UK, and that's a risk for us - in terms of supply and currency."

RWE npower claim Rhyl Flats' 25 turbines, generating up to 96MW of power, are enough to provide electricity for the equivalent of 60,000 homes.

A group has been formed, not so much to oppose these turbines or the 30 which started generating power in 2003 at North Hoyle but to try and protect the view when the proposed Gwynt y Mor site is up and running.

It's no good how clean they are, if you don't know from minute to minute - never mind day to day - if the wind is going to stop
Hefin Hughes, Save our Seaside

Gwynt y Mor will be the third offshore wind farm. Permission was granted last December for up to 250 turbines across a huge area 10 miles off the north Wales coast.

Save our Seaside's Hefin Hughes says: "I do understand people in Llandudno are very very concerned, as this is only a tiny fraction of what's going to be here eventually.

"What bothers me most is that they are inefficient and that you've no guarantee when they are going to work.

"It's no good how clean they are, if you don't know from minute to minute - never mind day to day - if the wind is going to stop. You have to keep parallel (electricity) generation going on alongside them."

Both Welsh and UK governments have targets to reduce carbon dioxide, and investing in wind farms is helped by subsidies called renewable obligation certificates (ROCs).

This allows an energy company like RWE npower to receive twice the usual rate for a kilowatt of electricity. So we are likely to see more wind farms - even expensive offshore ones.

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