UK’s offshore wind farm and world’s largest starts operation

Jun 14, 2012 12:00 AM

by James Murray

The UK's offshore wind energy industry is celebrating as developers confirmed that the world's largest wind farm, the Walney project off the Cumbria coast, has been fully commissioned with all 102 turbines now feeding electricity to the grid.
The wind farm, which combines the Walney 1 and Walney 2 wind farms, boasts 367 MW of capacity and is expected to provide about 320,000 homes with renewable power. The project, which was led by a joint venture containing Danish energy giant DONG Energy, UK utility SSE and investment group OPW, was hailed as a major milestone for the UK's burgeoning offshore wind sector.

"DONG Energy is delighted that our record-breaking project is now fully operational, providing clean energy from the UK's abundant wind resources directly into the grid," said Benj Sykes, DONG Energy's director of operations for UK wind power.
"Walney is the first project in the UK to be backed by institutional investors before it was built – a confidence justified by the speed and efficiency of the construction. It shows our commitment to offshore wind development in the UK and to driving down costs."

Significantly for future developments, DONG Energy reported that the Walney 2 phase of the project was completed in record-breaking time for an offshore wind farm, with all turbines and cables installed in just five months and 13 days.
Jim Smith, SSE's managing director for renewables, said the project was "a great example of how much offshore wind has matured as an industry in a relatively short time", adding that it would now play a role in curbing the UK's carbon emissions and enhancing its energy security for years to come.

However, Walney's position as the world's largest offshore wind farm will prove short lived, with construction work already underway on a number of larger offshore wind farms, including the 388.8 MW West of Duddon Sands project and the 630 MW London Array, which could later be expanded to become the world's first 1 GW wind farm.
The milestone comes as trade association RenewableUK hosts its annual Global Offshore Wind conference in London, which saw the release of a wide-ranging report detailing how the sector can meet government targets to cut the cost of offshore wind energy by about a third over the next eight years to £ 100 per MWh.

The sector also received a further boost when energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey offered his most vocal support yet for the industry, telling delegates at the conference that he was committed to "taking the politics out of wind", would deliver an "evidence-based" policy regime for the sector.
He said he was heartened by the 80 % "silent majority" of people who are in favour of renewable power.

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