MHI Vestas Offshore Wind is a joint venture between Vestas Wind Systems A/S 50% and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) 50%. The company’s focus is to design, manufacture, install and service wind turbines for the offshore wind industry. The company aims to create sustainable value through offshore wind power by driving capital and operating savings and increasing the power output of wind turbines. MHI Vestas has received its new blade mould on the Isle of Wight. The arrival aids the company’s manufacturing expansion efforts, which promises to add 1,100 new jobs – direct, indirect, and induced – and £42 million per year in added economic benefit to the Solent region once the second mould is fully operational.
Vestas relocated its testing related activities on the Isle of Wight to make room for potential future expansion by its offshore wind joint venture with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. It moved its blade, bearing and material testing from its West Medina Mills site to the nearby St Cross facility.
It is known that oil exists in the rock strata beneath the Solent, but the reserves are understood not to be commercially viable at the present time. Oil is vested in the Crown, and only those companies granted a licence through the Oil and Gas Authority have the right to carry out exploration and production. There are two systems of licensing for oil exploration: one for onshore, including 'bay closing areas' (such as the Solent and Southampton Water) and one for offshore.
In 1984, Shell UK Ltd was awarded a licence to search for oil and gas in the Solent. The company carried out seismic surveys and a series of environmental studies. They concluded that oil was not available in commercial quantities and the environmental constraints on exploration were too great. Two further licences have been issued in the western Solent to Brabant, and Elf Enterprise was granted licences to the west of the Isle of Wight. No progress has been made with these beyond seismic exploration and test drilling.
Fawley power station was commissioned in 1971, the 2,000 megawatt power station originally used heavy fuel oil from the nearby Esso refinery and featured a turbine hall, 650ft chimney and a circular control room. It was built on reclaimed marshland formerly part of The Cadland Estate, which surrounds the site, and run by RWE npower. It shut in 2013. It is now set to be redeveloped with 1,500 homes as part of the Fawley Waterside scheme.
In the future, the marine area will provide an increasing proportion of the UK‘s energy needs from offshore renewable sources of generation – wind, wave and tidal. It will also need to support the expansion of offshore electricity networks to connect these to shore. There are currently no commercial offshore wind, wave or tidal power farms around the Solent. The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is responsible for licensing of offshore energy generating installations including wind farms, wave and tidal devices between 1 and 100 megawatts. Wind farms generating more than 100 megawatts are licensed by the National Infrastructure Planning inspectorate.
Tidal stream turbines harness the power of the tides, typically using horizontal axis rotors to drive a generator. Since 2008, 18 MW of tidal stream capacity has been installed in the UK. Of this, 10.4 MW is operational. Perpetuus Tidal Energy Centre (PTEC) is a proposed 30MW commercial tidal stream project located off the south coast of the Isle of Wight.