Yesterday saw the launch by prime minister David Cameron of the world’s largest offshore wind power plant, the London Array, located in the Thames estuary, approximately 20 kilometres off the Kent and Essex coast.
Owned, developed and built by a consortium consisting of Dong Energy, E.ON and Masdar (Abu Dhabi’s state backed renewable energy company), it has a total capacity of 630 megawatts (MW) and will generate enough power to supply 500,000 British households with clean electricity.
It is estimated to reduce annual CO2 emissions by approximately 900,000 tons, equivalent to the emissions of 300,000 passenger cars. Construction involved over 75 organisations and 6,700 people.
The London Array consists of 175 wind turbines supplied by Siemens, who also made the grid connection. Dong Energy and Siemens will be responsible for the service of the wind turbines through a long-term agreement.
DECC said that companies from all over the UK had benefited, "with construction supplies ranging from cable manufacturing in Yorkshire to boats from Brightlingsea to wind towers from Scotland".
Speaking at the launch, the Prime Minister used the occasion to back wind power and overseas investment in Britain, calling it "a triple win".
“First of all it’s a huge win for Kent. This project has been built by some of the bravest seaman, some of the most talented engineers, some of the hardest workers, and it’s going to continue to bring benefits to people in Kent for many, many years to come," he said.
He added that it's certainly "a big win for is renewable energy" because it shows that we can "have renewable energy projects at scale... right here in Britain".
Thirdly, he said it proved that Britain can "do big projects", citing also "a superb Olympics", Crossrail, "the biggest construction project in Europe", London Gateway, "the biggest port construction taking place in Europe", and "here you have the biggest offshore construction anywhere in the world. I think this demonstrates Britain is a great place to invest,” he concluded.
Energy secretary Ed Davey called it “a bulk generator of power feeding into the diverse mix on our grid. It’s attracted billions of inward investment into our economy".
He added that the reforms outlined in the Energy Bill are intended to make sure that more projects like this come about.
Other massive projects (a total of 15 GW) are already in the pipeline, such as Teesside, Gwynt y Mor off the coast of North Wales and West Of Duddon Sands off the north west coast of England.
At Gunfleet Sands, off the Essex coast, the next generation of even more powerful offshore turbines is being tested in the water for the first time anywhere in the world.
At the end of March, the 75th and final turbine was installed at Lincolnshire's windfarm off the coast of Skegness, which has the capacity to power more than 200,000 homes.
Speaking at the opening, RenewableUK’s chief executive, Maria McCaffery, said: “The Prime Minister’s ringing endorsement of Britain’s offshore wind industry is a real boost for the entire renewable energy sector, which is a key growth area for the British economy.
“We’re about to witness a massive expansion in the number of people we employ in the wind industry onshore and offshore, from about 12,000 now to 76,000 by the dawn of the next decade, as long as Government remains supportive – today Mr Cameron has assured us that it will”.
The UK is expecting that offshore wind farms will help it reach its legally-binding targets to cut carbon emissions, with an aim of developing 18 gigawatts by 2020.
Story: David Thorpe, News Editor