§ The Minister for Energy and Construction (Mr. Brian Wilson)
I am pleased to inform hon. Members that I published on 22 November a consultation document proposing a strategic framework for the future of the offshore wind industry.
This country is very rich in wind resources. Harnessing the wind to generate electricity means that we have a sustainable and secure long term supply of energy. An important added benefit is that generating electricity from the wind does not release carbon and other pollutants into the atmosphere. The wind energy industry is well established onshore and single turbines and larger wind farms are already generating electricity for homes and businesses.
The wind resource out at sea is substantial and offers considerable potential for expansion of the wind energy industry. The offshore wind energy industry could make a significant contribution, perhaps as much as 50%, to meeting the Government's target that 10% of electricity supplies should be generated from renewable sources by 2010. Expansion on this scale would bring significant investment and job opportunities.
The first step in realising this potential has already been taken when in December 2000 the Crown Estate invited the industry to apply for site leases for wind farms. The response was most encouraging. 20 wind farms are planned for various locations around the coast The first of these wind farms is expected to be constructed next year.