The U.K. pushing wind power

Turbines of the Burbo Bank offshore wind farm in Liverpool.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Renita Jablonski: In Britain, the government just announced a massive increase in the amount of wind power it would like to see generated offshore. Power companies are being invited to bid for the right to place thousands of turbines around the coast of the U.K. The plan is to generate enough electricity to supply all British households by 2020.

Stephen Beard joins us from London. Why is the government pushing these off-shore farms?

Stephen Beard: Britain of course buffeted by winds rolling off the Atlantic -- it has something like 60 percent of the so-called wind resource in Europe. And there's another point, too. Even though these are gonna stand pretty high -- I mean, we're talking about between 300 and 500 feet above the waves -- they won't be visible from the shore. So the visual damage to the landscape will be minimized. And that's pretty critical, because although there are concerns about the impact on seabirds of putting these turbines out to sea, the visual damage for most Britons will be much less.

Jablonski: This comes from an E.U. initiative that 20 percent of energy requirements come through renewable sources. What about the economics of this?

Beard: Well, they're not great. Wind power still requires a pretty heavy subsidy, like all renewables. And very recently, we had a story about Shell, the oil company, pulling out of a major off-shore wind project off the southeast coast of England, siting economic concerns, worried that they weren't going to make enough and there wasn't sufficient incentive from the government to proceed. Shell announced that they would be much better off developing on-shore wind power in the United States. But of course, everything depends on the price of oil. As crude gets a lot more expensive, wind power and other renewables will become more viable.

Jablonski: All right, Stephen Beard in London. Thank so much, Stephen.

Beard: OK, Renita.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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