Iberdrola confident about UK offshore plans

Some schedule slippages but projects still making progress

Iberdrola's offshore wind projects in the UK are facing  "country-specific challenges" that have resulted in some delays, but the Spanish-owned company remains confident about its offshore wind development programme — a central theme of its corporate growth strategy.

The issues facing Iberdrola's UK offshore wind programme are "associated with permitting, grid, supply chain and financing, which require continuous focus," explained Jonathan Cole, director of Iberdrola's offshore business.

Iberdrola's Argyll Array project was originally scheduled for commissioning in 2018, but will not now be online before 2020 at the earliest. As previously reported in Windpower Offshore, concerns about protected species, including basking sharks, have prompted additional surveys to ensure potential biodiversity impacts are properly understood.

The licensing of East Anglia Offshore is "progressing well", confirmed Cole, and an application for the 1.2GW project is due for submission in November. Its scheduled construction date has been pushed back from 2015 to 2016. A further three projects within the Round 3 zone are undergoing consenting works.

Work on the Belfast harbour terminal, essential for the construction of the West of Duddon Sands project, is nearing completion and turbine installation is due to begin in autumn 2013 as planned. However, the bulk of commissioning will not take place until 2014, a year later than originally scheduled.

Despite these delays, Jonathan Cole remains sanguine about the UK market. "The environment hasn't changed," he said. It is natural that there are "many challenges ahead as the industry ramps up to deliver significant increases in capacity over the next ten years".

In addition to the UK, Iberdrola is pursuing offshore projects in Germany and France. It plans to expand its presence in Germany, with its Wikinger project still on schedule for commissioning in 2016. Iberdrola has plans for a further three projects in Germany: Windanker and Strom Nord in the Baltic Sea and Nordschillgrund, a large array in the North Sea.

In France, Iberdola hopes to present its planning application for the Saint-Brieuc project by the end of 2014 with installation pencilled in for 2018/19.

The offshore wind industry's principal challenge is to reduce its cost of the energy, insists Cole. It is a sentiment shared by many within the UK government. Cutting costs will require cross-industry collaboration on research and development, standardisation and industrialisation — as well as government action to cut planning delays and provide a stable long-term market.

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