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Offshore wind farms to power every home in Britain by 2020

Britain will generate enough electricity with the help of offshore wind farms to power every home in the country by 2020.

Britain's business secretary John Hutton said Monday the government planned to reach the target through a fourfold increase in the amount of space off Britain's coast allocated for wind farms.

The move would change Britain's coasts, Hutton acknowledged, but said the need for energy self-sufficiency left the country no choice. He said the plans would depend on environmental impact studies.

"But if we could manage to achieve this, by 2020 enough electricity could be generated off our shores to power the equivalent of all of the U.K.'s homes," Hutton said in a statement.

The British Wind Energy Association, a trade body which represents the country's wind and marine energy industries, welcomed plans for more offshore wind farm sites, but it said it would be difficult to raise Britain's wind power production to 33 gigawatts by 2020 from half a gigawatt currently.

Eight gigawatts' worth of wind generation projects are already planned, but the group said the limited supply of turbines meant the amount of wind energy produced by 2020 would likely be closer to 20 gigawatts.

"We'd really be struggling from a 'Where can we get the turbines?"' point of view, the association's economics director Gordon Edge said.

Environmental campaigners and opposition lawmakers welcomed the plan, but some noted that wind generated power is expensive. Wind power-generated electricity is currently more expensive to generate than its coal- or gas-generated counterpart.

Although Britain's wind-swept coasts and shallow waters are ideal for offshore turbines, wind generated power accounts for less than 2 percent of its energy generation. However, massive new offshore wind farms, such as the 1 gigawatt London project planned for the Thames estuary in the country's southeast, are due to go online by 2014. According to the BWEA, the country is on track to overtake Denmark as the world's largest generator of offshore wind power next year.

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