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EDITIONS
Monday, 10 February, 2003, 09:11 GMT
Wind power flies high
Wind farm
Many big energy utilities are now exploring wind power

Worries over climate change, and a growing energy shortage worldwide, have put renewable energy sources such as wind power at the top of the political agenda.

In the UK, the government has called for 10% of all energy usage to be met, by 2010, from power generated through renewable sources - one of the toughest targets for any European country.

The region of East Anglia is fast becoming a test-bed for the technologies that will help to meet the growing demand for wind power.

Location, location, location

Ness Point, the most easterly point in Britain, has been chosen as the site for one of the world's tallest wind turbines.

We are very well geographically placed for the off-shore industry

John Best, East of England Energy Group

SLP Engineering, a medium-sized firm based in East Anglia, is behind the project.

Business Development Manager, Megan Arnold, said Ness Point was ideal because it is windy even on a mild day.

"The turbine that we're planning to build is about 10 metres away from the sea wall," Ms Arnold said.

"It's going to get the full force of the North Sea - all its salt, mist, conditions, water spray - and also it will get the full force of the North Sea wind.

"So it's a great test-bed for a prototype machine."

Spreading their wings

But SLP Engineering's main business is in the manufacture and servicing of drilling platforms.

So why have they decided to whole-heartedly embrace wind technology?

North Sea oil and gas reserves are diminishing, and many companies are addressing the need to diversify.

Ms Arnold said some of the big oil, gas and energy utilities have realised the need to get involved.

"It's not only good from a kind of PR and marketing perspective," she said.

"Now in fact we see some of those companies really shaking and moving in political circles, pushing the government to create the opportunities and help the UK take a market leading edge."

Well-placed?

East Anglia has recently won several major contracts for the construction of large-scale offshore wind farms, as well as more onshore turbines.

Here is a golden commercial opportunity that could bring regeneration to coastal towns like Lowestoft that absolutely need it

Bob Blizzard, MP for Lowestoft

Windmills of an older sort have certainly been a familiar sight in this region since the 19th century.

But apart from the sheer amount of wind, what makes the east of England such an ideal test-bed for offshore wind technology?

John Best, chief executive of the East of England Energy Group, said the area had many attractions.

"We've got shallow water... the skills and the expertise that has supported an industry which is of marine nature and we're also extremely close to the Continent," Mr Best said.

"So I do believe that we are very well geographically placed for the offshore industry."

Opportunities

There is also great support for wind turbines from local people, most of whom view the presence of the technology with pride and as a potential source of employment, rather than as an eyesore.

So will it all be plain sailing from here for wind energy in East Anglia?

Bob Blizzard is MP for Lowestoft, the town closest to SLP's planned turbine, and he also chairs parliament's all-party Oil and Gas Industry group.

He said although nobody doubted there was a political commitment from the government for encouraging offshore wind power, there were some difficulties in terms of forming a viable supply chain to feed that industry.

"People are still waiting to see the first offshore wind turbine in place before they put their money behind it," he said.

Mr Blizzard said better support was needed from the regional development agency.

"Here is a golden commercial opportunity that could bring regeneration to coastal towns like Lowestoft that absolutely need it.

"But we will have to move fast to grasp the opportunity."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
By Ravi Kapur
"There is also great support for wind turbines from local people in the East of England"
See also:

21 Jan 03 | Scotland
21 Jan 03 | England
21 Jan 03 | England
10 Dec 02 | England
22 Nov 02 | Scotland
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