UK has taken a major step forward in wind power. Contracts to set up offshore wind farms in nine zones across the country have been finalized. Together the turbines in the new farms could generate up to 32 gigawatts of power, a quarter of the UK's electricity needs.
It will create one of the biggest infrastructure projects for wind energy in the world, with construction beginning in 2014 at the earliest.
AdvertisementA consortium including Npower and Norway's Statkraft won the licence for the biggest zone, in Dogger Bank, which could produce nine gigawatts of energy.
The second largest zone, with a potential energy yield of 7.2 gigawatts, is at Norfolk Bank. The wind farm licence there has been won by a consortium of Scottish Power Renewables and Sweden's Vattenfall Vindkraft.
The winners of the bids have signed exclusive agreements with the Crown Estate, which owns the UK seabed.
Ed Miliband, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, said: "Our island has one of the best wind energy resources in Europe and today's news shows we're creating the right conditions for the energy industry to invest in harnessing it.
"This is one of the strongest signals yet that the UK is locked irreversibly into a low carbon, energy secure prosperous future."
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the government's policies to support offshore wind energy had put the UK ahead of other countries.
"This new round of licences provides a substantial new platform for investing in UK industrial capacity," he added.
"The offshore wind industry is at the heart of the UK economy's shift to low carbon and could be worth Ģ75bn and support up to 70,000 jobs by 2020," he said.
It's thought the turbines will be erected in water depths of up to 60m, compared with 25m for previous rounds. They will be positioned up to 205km off the coast, compared with 25km currently.
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