Energy from offshore wind in the UK will be cheaper than electricity from new nuclear power for the first time.
The cost of subsidies for new offshore wind farms has halved since the last 2015 auction for clean energy projects.
Two firms said they were willing to build offshore wind farms for a subsidy of £57.50 per megawatt hour for 2022-23.
This compares with the new Hinkley Point C nuclear plant securing subsidies of £92.50 per megawatt hour.
Nuclear firms said the UK still needed a mix of low-carbon energy, especially for when wind power was not available.
Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “It doesn’t matter how low the price of offshore wind is. On last year’s figures it only produced electricity for 36% of the time.”
EDF, which is building the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant, said the UK still needed a “diverse, well-balanced” mix of low-carbon energy.
“New nuclear remains competitive for consumers who face extra costs in providing back-up power when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine,” the French firm said.
“There are also costs of dealing with excess electricity when there is too much wind or sun.”
EDF added that energy from new nuclear plants would become cheaper as the market matures, as has happened with offshore wind.
Eyes will be raised at this suggestion; as nuclear power has already received subsidies since the 1950s. But storage of surplus energy from offshore wind is still a challenge.
Two Scottish renewable energy projects have been awarded 15-year contracts after a UK government auction.
The Moray East Offshore wind farm is planned for the Moray Firth and a biomass heat and power plant will be built in Grangemouth.
Scottish Renewables’ deputy chief executive, Jenny Hogan, said: “The results of this latest auction are good news for Scotland, for our environment and for our energy system.
The cost reductions seen in offshore wind in particular have been dramatic and are testament to the determination of developers to drive down costs.
The scale of innovation taking place across the sector and its growing supply chain show the importance of ensuring a viable, competitive route to market is available for clean power technologies.”
Plans to develop a tidal lagoon power station big enough to supply every home in Wales have taken a step forward with the announcement of the project developer. Tidal Lagoon Power (TLP), has secured a grid connection for the 3240MW station. Located between Cardiff and Newport, the tidal lagoon is projected to be the first full-scale deployment of this technology, following on from a pilot scheme planned for Swansea Bay.
The Swansea scheme is now fully-consented and awaiting final sign off from the government, a decision which is expected within weeks, but TLP is keen to secure the next phase of Its plans. Although it does not expect to submit a full application for development consent for the Cardiff Bay tidal project until 2019, it has been working on advance plans for three years and has now accepted an offer for grid connection from National Grid Electricity Transmission plc.
“Our offer to the UK government is to contract Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon for a lower subsidy per megawatt hour than Hinkley Point C,” said TLP’s chief executive Mark Shorrock. “While we await the government’s response to this offer and to the Independent Hendry Review of tidal lagoons, we have continued our development work on the subsequent programme.”
The projected Cardiff Bay project comprises a 20.5km breakwater wall enclosing some 70 km2 of the Severn Estuary and housing up to 108 tidal turbines within at least two powerhouses. These would handle flows of some 600million cubic metres of water on each tidal cycle.
TLP estimates that over 3000 construction workers will be needed to build the lagoon and its associated systems, supporting a further 8000 jobs in the supply chain in Wales and throughout the UK, with supply contracts potentially worth over £6bn.
It is hoping to secure some £8bn of investment to complete the project, and Is also working on projects in Colwyn Bay, Bridgwater Bay and West Cumbria, as well as discussing some international projects.
The owners of the UK’s last aluminium smelter plan to install up to 54 wind turbines at a site in the Highlands.
The wind farm proposed for Glenshero, near Laggan, would supply electricity for GFG Alliance’s Lochaber Smelter near Fort William.
The scheme would also provide power for Motherwell’s Dalzell steel mills run by Liberty, which with another company SIMEC forms GFG Alliance.
The farm goes ahead, steel for the turbines would be rolled in Motherwell.
As well as the wind farm, GFG said It hopes to upgrade existing hydro power stations serving the smelter and look at the potential of building smaller scale hydro schemes in Lochaber.
Jay Hambro, of the GFG Alliance and chief executive of SIMEC Energy, the firm leading the wind farm project, described the turbines as a “unique project”.
He said: “It would be built in an environment of zero subsidies, using steel rolled and finished in Scotland and then generate clean energy to support the Scottish metals industry.”
“It is also an exciting opportunity for us to work with the local community and encourage their investment alongside our own. This is truly a win-win project for all parties.”
Earlier this year, GFG announced plans to make alloy wheels for cars at the Lochaber Smelter.