World’s largest wind farm to begin production this week in UK

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The UK’s 1.2 GW Hornsea Project One offshore wind farm could step in to fill the gap left open by the country’s failing nuclear industry.

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Photo by Nicholas Doherty on Unsplash
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The world’s large offshore wind farm, the1.2GW Hornsea Project One project located off the coast of the UK near Hull – is to start generating this week, helping to fill the gap left open by the country’s failing nuclear industry.

Construction for the mammoth project began in the fourth quarter of 2017 and in December 2018, the project’s developer Ørsted announced that it had completed the installation of the wind farm’s export cable “months ahead of schedule.” Now the project is ready to supply its first power to the UK electricity grid, expected later this week.

Hornsea Project One is using 7 MW wind turbines supplied by Siemens Gamesa and, when the project reaches full operation in 2020, it is expected to generate enough power to supply the needs of well over 1 million UK homes.

The project is one of four projects being considered and developed in the Hornsea Offshore Wind Zone by Ørsted, with each proposed project larger than the one before. Hornsea Project One is being developed at 1.2 GW, while Hornsea Project Two has a proposed capacity of 1.4 GW – enough to power well over 1.3 million homes.

According to Ørsted’s early information, Hornsea Project Three could be as big as 2.4 GW – enough to meet the needs of over 2 million homes – while Hornsea Project Four has been given no prescribed capacity target. Rough estimates for the whole leased area, however, could put final development up around the 8 GW mark (depending on the size of Project Four).

While each zone is comparable in area, the size of available offshore wind turbines when construction has begun has increased rapidly.

While Hornsea Project One is making use of 7 MW turbines and Project Two has signed a contract to utilise Siemens Gamesa 8 MW turbines, Project Three could likely use turbines 10 MW and larger in size – such as the 10 MW wind turbine Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy announced last month, or the 12 MW Haliade-X wind turbine to be offered by GE Renewable Energy (expected in 2021).

The size of wind turbines is also one of the reasons the “world’s biggest” wind farm will jump from 659 MW – the Walney Extension, officially opened off the coast of Cumbria, England, in September 2018 and utilising 7 MW and 8.25 MW turbines – to 1.2 GW in 2020 when Hornsea One becomes operational.

The news of Project One’s nearing supply of first power comes at just the right time, then, to remind UK citizens and policymakers of the potential the Hornsea project – and offshore wind in general – has of fulfilling the gaping hole left by the wounded and limping UK nuclear power industry.

Following in the wake of Japanese technology giants Toshiba and Hitachi walking away from two new nuclear power projects – Moorside and Wylfa Newydd, both of which had already been abandoned by other companies – the UK has had to face up to the fact that nuclear power is not the cost-effective option it may have once been.

Greg Clark, the UK’s Secretary for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), said before Commons in January that “a combination of factors, including tighter safety regulations, has seen the cost of most new nuclear projects increase as the cost of alternatives has fallen and the cost of construction has risen.”

Secretary Clark remained convinced that nuclear can still be “successful in a more competitive energy market” but acknowledged that “we need to consider a new approach to financing future projects.”

This includes continued commitment to projects planned for Sizewell and Bradwell. Specifically, Sizewell C would add two new reactors capable of generating 3,260 MW at the existing EDF Energy Sizewell site on the Suffolk.

Bradwell B, being developed between China General Nuclear and EDF Energy at Bradwell-on-Sea, Maldon in Essex, although no information is available on the proposed size of the project as of yet.

These two planned projects join the controversial Hinkley Point C nuclear project which began construction in December, but with the loss of Moorside and Wylfa Newydd, the UK’s expected demand will quickly outweigh supply if something cannot be done to fast-track the development of new capacity.

New capacity such as the Hornsea Offshore Wind Zone, which could comfortably accommodate the gap left by the downfall of nuclear, and which could shine an important spotlight on the role that offshore wind could play for the UK in the near-future.

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