World’s biggest wind farm announced for North Sea

The Hornsea Project 2 will potentially see the construction of 275m-tall turbines

A ship sails past the Barrow offshore 90 megawatt wind farm, developed by British and Danish energy groups Centrica and DONG Energy, off the coast of Cumbria, England April 12, 2011. Offshore wind farm construction costs in Britain need to drop by around 30 percent over the next decade if the sector is to develop and help the country meet its green energy targets, British offshore wind farm developer SeaEnergy Renewables said April 12, 2011. Picture taken April 12, 2011.  REUTERS/David Moir (BRITAIN - Tags - Tags: ENERGY ENVIRONMENT BUSINESS) - LM1E74D0TZF01
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An offshore wind farm that will feature 276-metre tall turbines and that will generate enough energy to power more than 1.3 million homes was given the green light by the British government on Monday.

Danish renewables giant Dong Energy successfully bid for subsidy support for the Hornsea Two project, which will be situated 90 kilometres off the Yorkshire coast.

The farm is expected to come on line in April 2023. Its sister farm, Hornsea One, is currently under construction and will be completed in 2020. Between them, the two projects will have a potential generating capacity of nearly 2.6GW, providing power to in excess of two million homes.

In a move which will have long-term implications across the entire energy industry, the subsidy rate which the government will pay to Dong will be £57.50 (Dh280) per MWh — a figure which is more than half what was paid for energy from offshore wind farms in 2015.

Of equal importance is the fact that it is also £35 a MWh cheaper than then the subsidy that the government has agreed to pay for energy from the troubled Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Cornwall. The wind farm is likely to be on stream years before the plant will be generating electricity.

The British government reaffirmed its commitment to the £20.3bn project in 2016, which will see the French energy group EDF and China’s government-owned nuclear firm work together to deliver a project that was supposed to have been completed in 2025 but which is now unlikely to be operating until 2027. Costs have also spiralled out of control, with EDF admitting in July that is was £1.5bn over budget.


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That the renewables sector is now as competitive as other industries is due to a number of factors. Technological advances have meant that turbines are becoming bigger in size and also power-generating capacity — the 195m-tall turbines at the Burbo Bank Extension in the Irish Sea off Liverpool produce up to 8MW of electricity and each full rotation of their 80m-long blades can power a home for 29 hours,

“People rightly focus on turbine size and that is undoubtedly the biggest cost driver of the projects,” said Matthew Wright, managing director for Dong Energy in the UK. “You get economies of scale with bigger projects.” Because projects like Hornsea share a lot of infrastructure with already operational farms, it means the marginal cost for the additional capacity is lower.

Reaction to the project across the environmental movement was positive. Greenpeace said “it's important to celebrate progress, and this is a huge breakthrough for clean energy” while Caroline Lucas, the co-leader of Britain’s Green party, said: “This massive price drop for offshore wind is a huge boost for the renewables industry and should be the nail in the coffin for new nuclear.”

There was caution in some quarters about the rush to ditch nuclear as part of the country’s energy mix. The Financial Times observed in an editorial that “despite the clear mistakes made in the Hinkley Point deal … this does not obviate the argument for building new nuclear plants to meet a part of the UK’s energy needs. Despite the huge advances in renewable generation, and progress in dealing with challenges such as intermittency, it will still be a matter of decades before the system can function without traditional generation.”