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Offshore wind farms to boost architects' workload

British architects look set to benefit from work worth billions of pounds designing the infrastructure needed to support planned offshore wind farms

Government-backed schemes to build as many as 7,000 offshore wind turbines represent ‘massive potential’ for onshore regeneration at depressed ports and coastal towns, architects claim.

‘There is unease about nuclear power, due to the Fukushima incident in Japan and the emphasis is moving towards less risky offshore wind,’ said Mike Oades of Aedas, who recently won a commission to design a £25 million new mixed-use harbour (pictured) at Ingoldmells in Lincolnshire. He added: ‘There is no reason why UK architects shouldn’t be in the vanguard of this wave of opportunity.’

In Hull, where wind farm developer Siemens plans to open a £200 million manufacturing plant by 2014, Richard Scott, of Surface Architects, predicts the need for supporting infrastructure could even see an emergence of new building typologies. He said: ‘[Power generation]is on a much bigger scale than fishing and there is massive potential to create work, at a time when regeneration is generally slow.’

Manchester-based Ratcliff Partnership has won planning permission for a £940,000 facility for Centrica in Grimsby, designed as a base for offshore maintenance crews. Director Ray Bunting said: ‘There will be more work [to come], particularly in regard to regeneration.’

Paul Connelly of LDA Design has masterplanned a 1,000-home regeneration scheme at Hayle Harbour in west Cornwall to support the region’s £28 million wave hub project. He said: ‘There is a very utilitarian approach to onshore kit at the moment and there’s definitely scope for making some of the sheds more beautiful. With the onset of Localism I suspect there will be more of a role for architects.’

However, despite the huge commitment of E.ON, Siemens and others to the wind farm industry, the government’s Committee on Climate Change this week asserted that nuclear energy would remain the cheapest option for low-carbon power into the 2020s.

Postscript (16.05.11)

Huhne launches European grid link

Energy secretary Chris Huhne has launched the first new grid connection to Europe for 25 years, with the pledge that it marks the first step towards a North Sea “supergrid”.

The ‘Britned’ interconnector links the UK with the Netherlands, enabling the flow of 1,000 megawatts of electricity between the two countries, which Mr Huhne said would lead to more competition and lower bills for consumers.

He said the 260km (160 miles) electricity cable from the Isle of Grain in Kent to Massvlakte near Rotterdam could be the first of many linking European countries.

A new link is already being built to Ireland, and there are plans for undersea cables linking the UK to Norway, Belgium and France.

In the future, Britain could even be connected to Iceland, giving this country access to stable supplies of low-carbon geothermal and hydroelectricity.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change said the interconnector with Norway would allow the UK to import electricity generated by hydropower to help balance our energy system at times when the wind is not blowing.

The connector would also mean we could export excess wind and nuclear electricity to Norway when they need it, because of dry year or overnight to save their water reserves.

Huhne said: ‘This is the UK’s first interconnector in 25 years. This 260km cable marks the start of a move towards a true European supergrid, where power from our neighbours can flow into our electricity system and we’ll be able to export too.

‘More interconnection helps our energy security, helps us better use the increasing power we’ll get from renewables and helps consumers as increased trading can force prices down.’

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