The UK is at risk of allowing innovations in offshore wind development to grind to a standstill because of a lack of suitable demonstration sites.

The stark warning was issued today by independent energy business advisors The Carbon Trust, which claims that potential breakthroughs to slash the cost of offshore wind could remain stuck on the drawing board because Britain has nowhere to demonstrate new lower-cost foundations with more powerful offshore wind turbines.

The Carbon Trust believes that the situation has become so critical that without an urgent solution, many of new cost-saving innovations will not be available in time for the next major rollout of wind projects, which is expected to deliver up to 18 GW of new capacity by 2020.

The trust claims that offshore wind costs can be cut by up to a third but states that this will not happen unless new innovations are properly tested in situ to provide developers and financiers with technical assurance before undertaking major multi-billion pound procurement programmes.

Speaking at the Offshore Wind 2013 conference in Manchester, Phil de Villiers, the head of offshore wind at the Carbon Trust, said: “At present we have a Catch 22.  We have the technology but we have no way of proving that it can work at scale because we currently have no suitable offshore demonstration sites in the UK ready to use. 

“The bottom line is that unless we sort this issue out in the next few months we could be putting at risk the mass rollout of major new cost saving technologies which, in turn, can help reduce the overall offshore wind build bill by billions of pounds. 

“We have a duty to ensure we hit our carbon targets at the least cost possible, so it’s in everyone’s interest, including the government, the industry and consumers, to fix this problem and fix it fast.”