Clean Power

Published on July 4th, 2013 | by Timothy B. Hurst


UK Prime Minister Launches World’s Largest Offshore Wind Farm

July 4th, 2013 by  

London Array Turbines smallIt’s been a long time in the making — 12 years to be precise — but the London Array, the world’s largest offshore wind farm, is officially up and running. At a launch event today in Margate, Kent, UK Prime Minister David Cameron called the project “A win for Kent… a win for renewable energy… and most of all, a very big win for Britain.”

“We are making this country incredibly attractive to investment,” Prime Minister Cameron added.

Although the UK is far and above the world leader in offshore wind capacity, with 74% of global market share, London Array is the first major renewable energy project to be inaugurated by Cameron since he took office in 2010.

“Projects like London Array demonstrate the economic opportunity of large-scale renewable energy projects – from the direct investment they attract to the industries they strengthen,” said Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, CEO of Abu Dhabi–based renewable energy company Masdar, one of the companies behind the development of the project, along with DONG Energy and E.ON.

“London Array also exemplifies what can be achieved through smart policies and strong partnerships,” added Dr. Al Jaber.

London Array’s 175 Siemens 3.6 MW turbines have a combined capacity of 630 MW and are expected to produce enough electricity to power over half a million UK homes each year.

“Wind offshore is going primetime,” said Peter Loescher, President and CEO of Siemens, who also spoke at the event.

The UK has set a goal of generating 18 gigawatts of offshore wind energy capacity by 2020. With several gigawatts in various stages of the development pipeline, that lofty goal seems plausible, especially if the country moves forward on incentivizing the kind of large-scale renewable energy projects that brought London Array to life. And while the project was first proposed in 2000, the actual construction process took less than two years to complete.

It’s amazing how fast things can move once the key political, regulatory, and financial pieces of the puzzle are in place.

Tim Hurst now works with Masdar in Abu Dhabi.

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About the Author

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.

  • CaptD

    Great news for the UK, too bad more of the “investors” were not folks living in the UK instead of Mega Big Companies that will now be in charge of UK energy!

    Adding rooftop solar and making sure that they earn just as mush as what the Big turbines get paid for the energy added to the grid will keep the Big producers honest plusl allow homeowners and others to become energy suppliers!

  • Sidney Allen

    Great post, very hopeful. Here in the US we’re still waiting for the government to fully embrace wind power. Like many other things that require a substantial initial investment, wind energy needs that first push by the government for proof of concept. Great to see that is happening there, and my hope is that that project could become a worldwide model and encourage others to do the same. As I commonly describe at, wind energy’s time has come even if far too many people don;t know it. Thanks for the great post!

  • 5 GW of onshore wind capacity; 3 GW of offshore wind capacity.

    From before 6:00 am this morning, to 9:30 am, about 1.6 GW of wind power went into the National Grid (20% of nameplate capacity). Demand was at 26 GW at 6:00 am, rising to about 40 GW at 9:30 am.

    What made up for that ‘missing’ 6.4 GW of the loudly trumpeted 8 GW of WIND TURBINE CAPACITY? Well, nuclear chugs along steadily at about 7.5 GW all the time – 24/7.

    Good job we’ve got nuclear, eh? Can’t rely on wind to keep the lights on, can we?

    • dofn

      Sort of. Modern off-shore wind-farms seem to have quite good average capacity factors [which is more important than a single day’s statistics], particularly compared to on-shore and PV (this far north, anyway).

      Scroll down and sort by age on the following source: (note that even some of the older ones are excellent, and there are a few outliers – but, generally newer farms with improved turbines & siting have better capacity factors).

      • Bob_Wallace

        Here are capacity graphs for Danish offshore turbines. They should be very similar to UK turbines, same wind systems and turbine manufacturers.

        Note how early wind farms had much lower output capacity than more recent farms. We’re learning.

        Later period offshore Danish farms are performing about like onshore US wind farms. US onshore wind is excellent. And our off-shore is even better, we need to be harvesting some.

    • onshore wind is now hitting over 50% capacity factor. i’m sure London Array will have a very good capacity factor.

      the difficult thing with nuclear (other than it being absurdly expensive) is that it can all go offline suddenly (especially in extreme heat), resulting in a need for massive backup all of a sudden. not cool.

      • Nuclear power capacity factor 92% regularly. Besides, per GWh generated, nuclear only uses between one quarter and one tenth of our precious resources, than the range of renewables options – such as concrete, steel, rare-earths, etc..

        It’s not very environmentally-friendly to use resources in such a wasteful fashion, is it?

        • Bob_Wallace

          Nuclear has a capacity factor of 92%. Except for when capacity drops to 0% and stays there. Add in the failed plants and the plants shut down before they ran their expected life cycle and you get a very much lower capacity number.

          I don’t know where you get your 1/4 to 1/10 as much concrete, steel, rare-earths, etc. perhaps they are correct. But the steel, copper, REM, concrete in wind turbines can be reused/recycled when the turbines are worn out.

          The materials used in reactors has to sit, untouched, for decades while we wait for it to lose its radioactive contamination.

          But keep on beating that dying nuclear pony if it makes you happy. Nuclear is too expensive to build. Only autocratic governments build nuclear.

          • I just worry that the ¾ of the worlds population who currently use ¼ of the energy produced will want as much energy as you and I, by 2050, when there are 9 or 10 billion of us. We’ll need 3 or 4 times more energy than we use now to have a peaceful and stable world.

            By then, it’s doubtful that renewables will have demonstrated the ability to supply 24/7 energy on demand to keep everybody happy in somewhere the size of the Isle of Man.

            So it is plainly idiocy to think renewables can supply 3 or 4 times more energy than we use now, to everybody on the planet.

            Whereas, back of a fag-packet arithmetic shows breeder reactors can, and for all of the remainder of time, from inexhaustible uranium and thorium fuel sources. And not just for electricity generation either – supply of abundant electrical and process heat energy can produce vast quantities of potable water, carbon-neutral liquid fuels for transport and carbon-neutral ammonia as feedstock for fertilisers to feed the world.

            Breeder reactors are as near a silver-bullet solution to the world’s worst problems as we’re ever likely to get – and they really do use between one quarter and one tenth as much of our precious resources, per MWh generated, than renewables.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Well jeeeze, Colin, if you’re worried if it’s possible to supply people with all the electricity they want then why no do some reading?

            Over on the right hand side of the page – “100% Renewable Energy”. Look up the Jacobson and Delucchi (2009) paper. They give you a nice overview of how much potential renewable energy there is in the world.

            Nuclear reactors, well, we could do the job that way. It would cost a lot more money, take a lot longer, and we’d have to use the military in order to force people living along our coastlines to allow them to be built in their neighborhoods.

            If electricity demand is going to increase due both to increasing population numbers and improving lifestyles, why not pick the cheapest, safest, quickest way to meet those needs?

          • we’ve got a good collection of studies that show 100% or close to 100% renewables is not a challenge:

          • Well, I got a decent way through Jacobson and Delucchi and my first reaction was that their future energy-use projections were way below the level of 3 to 4 times more energy than we use now. So, the mind boggling quantities of different technologies will be significantly higher than their figures.

            Jevons paradox will prevail – it doesn’t matter how much efficiencies are improved, we will always find new ways of using energy. Whatever money we save on more efficient devices, will be spent elsewhere and I can’t think of a single expenditure that doesn’t involve energy use somewhere along the line.

            So it’s the Occum’s Razor answer for me – pick the simplest, cheapest technology that, with realisable numbers of power stations, can supply emission-free energy in all of the most useful forms – electrical, process heat, liquid fuels and chemicals – for all of time, to every individual on the planet. That’s breeder reactor technology.

            The waste stream breeder reactors produce is minuscule and decays to background radiation levels in only 300 years – safely and cheaply stored. One quarter to one tenth of resources such as concrete, steel and rare earths will be required per MWh generated, than the produced by renewables. Breeder reactors will rid us of what environmentalists term nuclear waste, by burning it as fuel – we have enough in the UK to provide all of the energy we need for 500 years.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Well, let’s see what is in the paper…

            “Today the maximum power consumed worldwide at any given moment is about 12.5 trillion watts (terawatts, or TW), according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The agency projects that in 2030 the world will require 16.9 TW of power as global population and living standards rise, with about 2.8 TW in the U.S.”

            Oops, they use EIA projections of world demand in 2030. The EIA doesn’t think your”3 to 4 times more energy than we use now” is where we’re going.

            Now, let’s assume you’re right and the EIA is wrong. It’s a possibility. What makes more sense – taking a hundred years to build reactors to fill that need or going ahead and doing it quickly with renewables?

            There is no way to build dozens of reactors at once. The world does not have enough people who know how to do the job. Installing solar panels and wind turbines is pretty much normal construction work.

            “Jevons paradox will prevail – it doesn’t matter how much efficiencies are improved, we will always find new ways of using energy.”

            Except that’s not what real world experience shows us. California has been aggressive about pushing efficiency and electricity uses have remained just about level.

            US electricity demand is flattening thanks to increased efficiency and it will be dropping.

            You misunderstand the use of Occum’s razor. The concept is that when you have multiple theories for a phenomenon the simplest is likely to be accurate. In short, pick the one that uses the fewest variables.

            What you do is to choose the most expensive and most problematic route away from fossil fuels.

          • You and I, Bob, are among the fortunate ¼ of the worlds population who use ¾ of the 12.5 TW. So if the other ¾ of the population used energy at the same level as us, we would need 37.5 TW of power production media – for 7 billion. For 9½ billion in 2050, we will need 50.9 TW – that’s 4 times the 12.5 TW peak capacity now. That other unfortunate ¾ of the population should be able to use as much energy as you, shouldn’t they Bob? It’s only fair and gives everybody a chance of a peaceful world.

            You really do know of the timescale of France’s transition to 85% nuclear power supply, don’t you Bob? It doesn’t do your argument any favours to duplicitously state 100 years as a build time – remember only ¼ to one tenth of the resources will be needed. Factory build Small Modular Breeder Reactors can come off production lines as fast as modern airliners do.

            The human mind can think of new commodities and services with far more enthusiasm than worrying about energy saving (Macabre Indifference). A couple of decades ago, no one saw the Smartphone coming and now, with servers and infrastructure, each one uses as much energy as a ‘fridge.

            US electrical demand is not dropping because of increased efficiency, as you well know – it’s the recession due to the collapse of financial structures – the effects haven’t bypassed me; I doubt they’ve bypassed you.

            Let’s use Occum’s Razor at the pragmatic level – my hypothetical solution – breeder reactors – to the worst problems facing humanity is orders of magnitude more simple and with fewer variables than yours.

            Nuclear – the most expensive? 8 GW of windfarm nameplate capacity – just as a favour to me, can you tell me the capital cost, including connection? Then I can quickly calculate the cost per GWh for the last 24 hours. Have you seen the contribution to the National Grid they have made – dear oh dear – chocolate teapots shade them on value for money.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The rest of the world can live a modern, western lifestyle without using as much electricity as we do in the US.

            Per capita electricity kWh

            US 11,902
            France 7,023

            Japan 6,750

            Germany 6,697

            Denmark 5,785


            And there’s room to bring those numbers down. Efficiency.

            We don’t have the trained and experienced people needed to build more than one or two reactors at a time. Even Europe has run into problems with inexperienced workers.

            We don’t have sites for 100 more more new reactors. Remember, you need sites with adequate cooling water and a population that will allow to be built in their neighborhood. Because of rising inland temperatures we’re pretty much limited to coastal sites.

            You aren’t paying attention to US electricity demand. US demand began flattening prior to the recession.

            Let’s not use Occum’s razor. You don’t know how to use it. It does not apply in this situation.

            There is no reason to believe that small modular reactors would be less expensive. Some calculations have found that they will, in fact, require more materials per MW capacity. There is no appreciable economy of scale gain at only a few hundred units of production. And we’d still need as many (or more) sites which runs up against cooling water and societal opposition.

            Costs – check this. Caution, their PV solar numbers are high. We’re already installing solar for less than their estimate of new nuclear.


          • Don’t move the goalposts to the USA, Bob, to distort your efficiency argument. You know I was using the worldwide 12 TW capacity requirement to prove to you that the world will need 4 times more capacity than we have now, for every individual on the planet to have a shot at the way of life you, a discerning environmentalist, has. So the mind boggling quantities of renewables ‘assets’ calculated in your renewables ‘solution’ become totally preposterous.

            In respect of flattening off of demand in the USA – I’m sure you’re not intending to imply the recession has had no effect on reduction in demand, are you – that would be ridiculous. And citing California as an example to the rest of the world is really scraping the barrel. The figures for the USA you give, demonstrates the profligacy of energy use which should encourage you to hide such facts along the other facts about renewables, you choose not to mention.

            At the risk of being repetitive, you know what France was able to achieve in terms of reactor build to shoot up to 85% nuclear. When the call comes we’ll build them. I’ve done a quick calculation, based on the GE Hitachi PRISM reactor, at 622 MW (per operational pair) and to meet the 50 TW level at a 90% capacity factor, we would need 90,000 units. Spread this over the 30 years from the 2020s to the 2050s and it all seems eminently feasible. Could we have your calculations for 50 TW of renewables, quoting capacity factors and a figure for the capacity of nuclear powered back-up required for 24/7 on demand supply?

            Don’t place too much emphasis on a population’s acceptance of a local neighbourhood SMBR (Small Modular Breeder Reactor). If or when the lights start to go out, Macabre Indifference will kick in and the screams will go up for a local SMBR. We happily commit one or two million people a year to early graves through our addiction to energy use and we’re now shrugging our shoulders at a train-load of fuel exploding in the centre of a town. What’s to worry about, with something the size of a modest supermarket on the outskirts of town?

            For 60 years we’ve had concerned scientists worrying about nuclear power – that’s why it’s orders of magnitude safer than other forms of power generation. So far you’ve displayed no paranoia about nuclear energy and no symptoms of radiophobia, so offering up utterances from the Union of [Anomalous] Concerned Scientists might just be a distraction.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Look, I find these “nuclear is the answer” arguments tiresome.

            Nuclear is dying. It’s simply not able to compete in open markets because it is simply too expensive.

            If someone invents cheap nuclear down the road then we can return it to the list of options. But for now it will only be built by governments who don’t invest their citizen’s money wisely.

            So I’m saying goodbye to this discussion with you. You are a true believer and want to argue out details that simply aren’t important.

            Cost counts and nuclear loses.

          • I appreciate my smart-ass hyperbole is tiresome but I have set myself a task to do, for the sake of my grandchildren, before I fall off my perch – not too long now.

            But give Professor Barry Brook a chance in an easy-watch, low key presentation – he’s so good to listen to:

          • Bob_Wallace

            I started to, but that thing is over an hour long. I don’t really want to spend an hour listening to “if”, “might” and “perhaps”.

            Here’s the important facts as I see them:

            1) Current nuclear technology is too expensive to compete with renewables.

            2) Gen IV, Gen III+, thorium with a backsplash of salt, whatever you think might be the future of nuclear will be researched. It is being researched. If it can be demonstrated that GenNext nuclear can compete with renewable energy then some will get built.

            Right now even the nuclear industry and the companies that own nuclear plants do not believe that GenNext stuff is worth building. Or they would be building it.

            Why not set your task to seeing that we install the cheapest, fastest to install and safest electricity generation?

            Cheapest means that our future electricity costs and your grand-children’s costs will be as low as possible.

            Picking the fastest to install means that we can cut fossil fuel emissions quicker and leave them with less climate change.

            Safest means that we don’t risk another Chernobly/Fukushimi or a Three Mile Island or yet another “near miss”. And it means that we don’t leave piles of dangerous radioactive waste for your grandchildren.

            Wouldn’t that be best for your grandchildren?

          • Here’s a fact – not as I see it. I’ll show my grandchildren how your ‘cheap’ 8 GW of windmills have been contributing 0.8 GW for several days and a steady 24/7, 7 GW of nuclear has been making up the difference.

            Dream on – you’ll never see renewables contributing more than a single figure % of world demand, in the long run.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Keep that mind closed, Colin.

            And run outside and shout at the clouds.

            (Guys like you give us old farts a bad reputation….)

          • Pots and Kettles!

          • Bob_Wallace

            Factory built small modular reactors…

            ” A physicist from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) today testified before a Senate subcommittee that
            small modular nuclear reactors are not necessarily any safer or more secure than conventional size reactors and could be more dangerous. Companies vying to sell small reactors, he said, are overstating their benefits and downplaying their potential pitfalls.

            Lyman argued that siting them underground would not make them safer.

            “While underground siting could enhance protection against certain events, such as aircraft attacks and earthquakes, it could also have disadvantages…,” he said. He reminded the subcommittee that the Fukushima Daiichi reactors’ diesel generators and electrical switchgear were underground, increasing their vulnerability to flooding. Likewise, he said, emergency crews would have a more difficult time accessing an underground reactor in the event of a serious accident.

            Passive systems may not work in the event of a serious accident that the reactor was not designed to withstand, he added, so they “should also be equipped with highly reliable, active backup systems and associated instrumentation and control systems.”

            More backup systems, he pointed out, would drive up the cost of small reactors, which already have a sizable economic disadvantage compared with large reactors. Because of economies of scale, the capital cost per
            kilowatt for a small reactor would be approximately 250 percent more than that for a large conventional reactor.”


        • sorry, but research has shown that solar PV & wind are the top options for addressing global warming. nuclear & solar thermal are comparable. but given that nuclear is wicked expensive, it’s not really in the running except where governments or utilities shove high electricity prices down customers’ throats.

  • sault

    I’ve seen several sources saying that the 630MW is just phase I of the project and that the London Array will eventually have 1,000MW output once completed. Is this still the case, and does anybody know if the $2.3B cost to build this project is just for phase I or the whole shebang? It has a great cost / watt regardless, especially for offshore wind.

  • Others

    Excellent. Each wind turbine with 3.6 MW, that’s enough to power 3,600 British homes. Surround Britain and Ireland with more and more Wind turbines and they can reduce the natgas consumption for power generation to 0.

    Island nations are ideal for wind turbines, both onshore and offshore.

  • Matthew

    This is really cool 😉

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