Wind power revolution off our coast

East Anglia's role at the heart of Britain's multi-billion-pound renewable energy industry will be secured today with the news that thousands of extra wind turbines are to be built off the UK's coast.

East Anglia's role at the heart of Britain's multi-billion-pound renewable energy industry will be secured today with the news that thousands of extra wind turbines are to be built off the UK's coast.

The country is set to embark on a wind revolution which could provide enough electricity for all the homes in the UK within 13 years - and the east is likely to play a crucial role in making it a reality.

Business secretary John Hutton will announce plans to open up our seas to up to 33 gigawatts of offshore wind energy - a radical u-turn from the government, which only last month resisted proposals to invest heavily in renewables to meet the country's future energy needs.

Mr Hutton admitted the “step change” would alter the face of the waters around the country - with the equivalent of two turbines to every mile.

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But he insisted that tough choices had to made to effect the shift to low carbon power sources.

Speaking on BBC1's Politics Show, Mr Hutton said: “There is the potential, we believe, out there, using the resources that there are around the UK to generate maybe all of the electricity that households need... from offshore wind sources.

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“We should see whether we can maximise that potential because it's obviously in the nation's interest, in the world's interest for us to make sure that more of our energy comes from clean sources.”

The move has been largely welcomed in the east - which is already at the forefront of the industry with 2gw already approved and an announcement expected within weeks for consent for a further 2gw.

James Beal, managing director of Renewables East, which is charged with helping the region meet its green energy targets, said: “We are absolutely going to be at the heart of this, it is tremendously exciting. This is a multi-billion pound industry and there is no reason why hundreds of millions should not be realised in this region.”

Currently just 2pc of our power comes from renewables, and wind is the source for less than 1gw.

Using current technology, it would mean introducing some 7,000 turbines to reach the government's new target.

Speaking to the European energy industry in Berlin, Mr Hutton will say: “The draft plan I'm setting out today could allow companies to develop up to 25gw of offshore wind by 2020, in addition to the 8gw already planned.

“This potential major expansion will be subject to the outcome of a Strategic Environmental Assessment. But if we could manage to achieve this, by 2020 enough electricity could be generated off our shores to power the equivalent of all of the UK's homes.

“The UK is now the number one location for investment in offshore wind in the world, and next year we will overtake Denmark as the country with the most offshore wind capacity. I want to ensure the UK remains one of the best places for renewable business.”

But the move has not been welcomed by everyone. North Norfolk fishermen fear their already threatened livelihood will come under further attack.

Ivan Large, chairman of the North Norfolk Fishermen's Society and Wells and District Inshore Fishermen's Association, which together represent more than 100 fishermen between Brancaster and Yarmouth, said another wave of farms would “leave fishermen with nowhere to go”.

“The authorities say we can fish around them, but it only takes a couple of accidents and there will be a 500m exclusion zone,” said Mr Large, who said fishermen were objecting to current wind farm plans including the Race Bank and Sheringham and Docking Shoals. Marcus Armes, from the UEA CRed carbon reduction campaign, said: “The UK is the windiest country in Europe and therefore offshore wind is particularly appropriate for us and CRed is very supportive of it.”

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