By Sam Portillo | News Editor
A partnership between BP and German firm EnBW has won the bidding rights to develop a major wind farm off the North Wales coast that could power almost 1.4 million homes with clean renewable energy.
It is part of a wider investment in renewable energy by the Crown Estate, which has announced proposals for six new offshore wind farms around England and Wales. Together, they could produce almost 8 gigawatts of power – enough to provide electricity to 7 million homes in the UK. Three farms would be located in the Irish Sea, situated off the coasts of North Wales and North West England, with BP and EnBW also winning the rights to a site near Morecambe Bay in Lancashire.
People familiar with the process claim that the long-awaited auctioning of more ‘seabed rights’ – the first in a decade – induced a bidding frenzy among private companies that are eager to further their involvement in the clean energy sector.
Worth an estimated £52bn and trading in over 70 countries, BP is one of the world’s oil and gas “supermajors”. Its origins date back to 1908, with the discovery of large amounts of oil in modern-day Iran. In 1954, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company adopted the name British Petroleum, which it still uses today. In the modern day, it also operates with biofuels, wind power and solar technology, among other renewable alternatives.
EnBW is an electric utilities company primarily based in Baden-Wuertemberg, Germany. It is the third largest company of its kind in the country, serving around 6 million customers.
The companies will collaborate on an area covering approximately 500 square kilometres, 30 kilometres off the North Wales coast. The designated points of construction fall between Holyhead, the largest town on Anglesey, and Rhyl, on the mainland. Its location echoes the development of the North Hoyle wind farm almost two decades ago, one of the first commercial offshore sites in the UK.
The six new wind farms in England and Wales could take the sector’s total employment figures from 11,000 today to 60,000 by the end of the decade. The companies must now complete thorough environmental checks on the proposed sites, assessing potential effects on the landscape and local wildlife, a process which is unlikely to finish until spring next year. Developers hope that the farm will be ready to produce electricity by the end of this decade.
Once completed, the six farms could see the UK reduce its annual household carbon emissions by 20 percent, taking it substantially closer to achieving the goal of ‘net-zero’ by 2050.
“As noted by the Climate Change Committee in December last year, Wales is on a credible pathway towards becoming a net-zero nation by 2050,” the Welsh Government Minister for the Environment and Energy Lesley Griffiths said.
Leader of the Wales Green Party Anthony Slaughter evoked similarities between Wales and other resource-rich nations. “Countries of comparable population size to Wales such as Alaska and Norway have invested their fossil fuel wealth in sovereign wealth funds,” he said. “We need to see the value of Welsh renewable energy resources being used in a similar way.”