World's Biggest Offshore Wind Farm Online in the UK

02/09/2012
SustainableBusiness.com News

The world's largest offshore wind farm came online today in the UK.

Located about 9 miles off the coast in the Irish Sea, the 367 megawatt (MW) Walney Farm will power 320,000 homes.

Built in two phases, the project consists of 102, 3.6 MW turbines. The first phase has been operating for a year and this second phase took just 5 months to build. The project created about 5000 wind jobs.

Danish developer Dong co-owns the $1.5 billion project along with SSE Plc, PGGM NV and Triodos Investment Management BV. Some of the UK's biggest pension funds invested in the project, a notable trend in renewable energy investment.

Dong will test two mammoth offshore turbines - a 6 MW turbine made by Siemens and a 7 MW turbine made by Vestas. Recent studies show that much larger ones - up to 20 MW - are feasible.

Britain's goal is to have 1.8 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2020 as part of its commitment to reduce greenhouse gases 34% below 1990 levels.

The UK is expected to deploy 1.2 GW this year in offshore wind and exceed 2.5 GW in 2016, stressing the wind supply chain's ability to keep up, according to RenewableUK. 

While the UK is cutting back on solar subsidies, it extended them to 2015 for offshore wind, with smaller than expected cuts after that. 

About 141 GW of offshore wind projects are either built, under construction, consented, or planned in 17 EU countries. That's 35 times the capacity of the 4 GW installed today.

Offshore wind will provide 13.1% of Europe's electricity, powering 130 million homes, if all the projects currently planned go through.

The industry is expected to create 169,000 offshore wind jobs  by 2020, and 300,000 by 2030, according to the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).

Wind supplies 21% of electricity in Denmark, 18% in Portugal, 16% in Spain, 14% in Ireland and 9% in Germany as of 2010.

And the US doesn't have a single offshore wind farm yet, but that's about to finally change.