The first turbine at the world’s largest offshore wind farm has been installed and is now supplying electricity to the UK electricity grid, according to Danish energy giant Ørsted, co-developer of the 1.2 gigawatt (GW) Hornsea Project One offshore wind farm.
It was reported earlier this week that Hornsea Project One was nearing generating its first power to the grid, and on Friday Ørsted announced that the first of 174 7-megawatt (MW) wind turbines had been installed and had begun generating power to the grid. Located 120 kilometers off the Yorkshire Coast in the UK, the 1.2 GW juggernaut will be the world’s largest offshore wind farm when completed in the first quarter of 2020, generating power to supply the needs of well over 1 million homes.
“Hornsea One is the first of a new generation of offshore power plants that now rival the capacity of traditional fossil fuel power stations,” crowed Matthew Wright, UK Managing Director at Ørsted. “The ability to generate clean electricity offshore at this scale is a globally significant milestone, at a time when urgent action needs to be taken to tackle climate change.
“Ten years ago, the thought of a project of this size was just a dream, but thanks to continued innovation, a determined effort from both the industry and supply chain to drive down costs, and the natural geographical benefits that surround us, the UK has positioned itself as a world leader in offshore wind.”
“The UK renewables sector is thriving. Last year we saw the world’s largest wind farm open off the coast of Cumbria, and today it’s joined by an even bigger one starting to produce power for the first time,” added Claire Perry, the UK’s Energy & Clean Growth Minister, referring to the opening of the 659 MW Walney Extension offshore wind farm in September 2018. “British innovation is central to our modern Industrial Strategy and our upcoming sector deal will ensure UK offshore wind is a global leader as we transition to a greener, smarter energy future.”
Hornsea Project One is being developed by Ørsted in partnership with Global Infrastructure Partners, with turbines supplied by Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy and construction being done by offshore marine engineering company GeoSea. The first of the 174 necessary monopiles was installed in January 2018, and a year later all but two of the monopiles have been installed, and one turbine. Ørsted has chartered two wind turbine installation vessels — the Bold Tern, owned by Fred. Olsen Windcarrier, and the Sea Challenger, owned by A2SEA — to install the turbines, each of which is capable of carrying all the necessary components for four wind turbines, with both vessels installing simultaneously.
“It’s amazing to think that just over a year ago we began offshore construction on Hornsea One, and now, 120km off the coast, it has already started to generate clean electricity,” said Duncan Clark, project director for both Hornsea One, and its sister project Hornsea Two, also under construction.
“I’d like to thank the thousands of people responsible for delivering this milestone safely and completely as planned. It’s taken hard work from so many different people, long shifts in all weather conditions, ingenious solutions and disciplined professional collaboration – which has all been worthwhile.
“To make this next generation of wind farm possible, the entire supply chain has stepped up to a massive challenge. This has involved scaling up, improving products and processes, refining skills, and together leading offshore wind to its market-leading position for new projects today, where it is now competitive on cost of electricity, on scale, on sustainability and on lead time. I would also like to thank those communities that have welcomed us during the construction phase of the project, including onshore cable laying, and all the authorities and businesses whose support and skills are necessary in developing this scale of infrastructure.
“There is still a long way to go, 173 turbines to be precise! But I’m confident we will continue to work to the high standards already demonstrated by the teams involved, and together deliver the biggest renewable energy project in the UK, helping to deliver a cleaner, greener energy system for the future.” – Clark
As mentioned, Hornsea One is only the first of four potential offshore wind farms to be built in the Hornsea Offshore Wind Zone. Hornsea Project Two has a proposed capacity of 1.4 GW, while Hornsea Project Three could be as big as 2.4 GW. Hornsea Project Four is in the early stages of development and has no proposed capacity target as of yet.
News of Hornsea Project One’s impending connection and its official news Friday has come at an important time for the UK power sector, as it deals with looming gaps in production due to the collapse of the country’s nuclear energy plans. Two proposed nuclear projects — Moorside and Wylfa Newydd, both of which had already been abandoned by other companies — have been subsequently abandoned by Japanese technology giants Toshiba and Hitachi, respectively, raising concerns that the absence of planned supply will leave a gaping hole in the UK’s energy mix.
However, speaking to The Guardian earlier in the week, Henrik Poulsen, Ørsted’s chief executive, said that “If nuclear should play less of a role than expected, I believe offshore wind can step up.” Poulsen added that planned nuclear projects across Europe have been “dramatically delayed and over budget,” in comparison to “the strong track record for delivering offshore [wind].”
The increasingly prominent role of offshore wind has been bolstered in the last year with announcements of increasingly more powerful wind turbines which will serve to reduce the costs of development for the large projects resting on the horizon. GE Renewable Energy announced in March 2018 its 12 MW Haliade-X turbine which would be capable of generating enough clean electricity for 16,000 households per turbine, which is expected to reach commercial availability in 2021, while MHI Vestas and Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy both announced 10 MW wind turbines last year.
The bigger the turbine, the fewer that will be needed, opening the door for larger wind farms which can be built faster and cheaper than currently, as construction work per MW will be considerably less. With looming gaps in European supply, offshore wind is hitting its stride at just the right time.