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Armour plan to save wind farm

A pioneering offshore wind farm in Northumberland – which has been at a standstill for almost 18 months – is finally set to be brought back into commission after being bought by an energy group.

Two turbines were installed half a mile off Blyth in 2000 at a cost of £4m, the first such wind farm in the UK and a project seen as leading the way for a new generation of offshore green energy.

However, the installation has not produced electricity since March last year after the main power cable, which lies on the seabed and connects the turbines to a sub-station on the coast, was severed.

It has meant that while the turbines have been working perfectly, no power could be sent ashore, raising the possibility that the two 2MW generators might be removed.

Now energy group E.on UK has announced plans to repair the cable and restart electricity generation after assuming 100% ownership of the wind farm.

The company, which owns Powergen, has acquired the interests of its consortium partners Shell, Nuon and Amec to take outright control of the Blyth wind farm.

Yesterday the company was unable to say when the two turbines will produce electricity again because a remedy will have to be developed to protect the power cable from being sliced again.

Managing director of Energy Wholesale at E.on UK, Dr Tony Cocker, said: “We’ve worked with our partners to achieve the best solution for the project and are thankful for their support, which will enable us to restore Blyth to its full capacity by repairing the offshore power cable.

“The scheme was always designed as a test bed to prove that it was viable to build and operate turbines around the UK coastline and it has achieved that, as well as other UK offshore firsts such as the replacement of a turbine blade at sea.”

A company spokesman said: “We hope the Blyth turbines will be producing power again sooner rather than later, but first we have to look at the best option for the power cable. We can’t bury it in that location, because it is all rock, so we have to look at how we can effectively armour or protect it on the seabed.

“We will have to develop a solution that has not been done anywhere else in the world and that means feasibility studies.”

Since it was first built the Blyth offshore wind farm has been blighted by problems, including having to replace a rotor blade struck by lightning and a previous power cable failure.

However, the project has led the way for much bigger installations, including plans for a £3bn, 350-turbine wind farm off North Devon.

By Dave Black

The Journal

5 July 2007