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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 December 2007, 00:31 GMT
Offshore turbines still on course
Turbines in Solway Firth

One of the UK's biggest offshore wind farms remains on schedule despite a three-month works delay.

A barge used in construction on the Robin Rigg site in the Solway Firth has been out of commission since workers had to be rescued from it in September.

Developers E.ON hope to restart offshore work at the site six miles off the Scottish coast before Christmas.

A spokesman said they were still confident of completing the 60-turbine project by its target of spring 2009.

Earlier this week UK business secretary John Hutton said up to 7,000 offshore turbines could be installed by 2020.

First project

That would increase the amount of energy produced by wind about 60-fold.

The 325m Robin Rigg scheme was the first such project to be approved in Scotland.

It is estimated it will provide enough energy to power about 150,000 homes.

Lisa A barge

However, it has been hit by a number of setbacks since work started earlier this year.

In August, progress was delayed due to the late arrival of a jack-up barge, the Lisa A.

A month later 38 workers had to be rescued from the rig after it started to list dangerously.

It emerged that one of the rig's legs had pierced the sea bed and it has been in Belfast since undergoing checks.

Despite these problems, E.ON said that onshore works were proceeding well and it was confident of making up lost time.

'Significant scheme'

A spokesman said that lessons learned from projects like Robin Rigg would be vital in meeting government targets for offshore development.

"Robin Rigg is a significant project in its own right and when it is completed it will be one of the biggest offshore wind farms in Europe," he said.

Robin Rigg map

"It will make a significant impact on our renewable energy targets.

"And projects like Robin Rigg, as we build them and operate them, will teach us much more about the next generation of offshore wind farms."

He stressed that the problems encountered on the Solway had been of a "one-off" nature and were unlikely to be repeated at other projects.

"Obviously with offshore engineering you will have challenges you do not have onshore," he added.

"There are technical challenges that need to be overcome."

However, he said that the target date of spring 2009 remained achievable since other parts of the work had been proceeding well.

E.ON hopes to see offshore works resume some time in the next couple of weeks.

"In terms of completing the scheme by spring 2009, we are very hopeful that we are still on course for that," said the spokesman.

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