An offshore wind farm on the Yorkshire coast that will dwarf the world’s largest when completed is to supply its first power to the UK electricity grid this week.
The Danish developer Ørsted, which will be installing the first of 174 turbines at Hornsea One, said it was ready to step up its plans and fill the gap left by failed nuclear power schemes.
The size of the project takes the burgeoning offshore wind power sector to a new scale, on a par with conventional fossil fuel-fired power stations.
Hornsea One will cover 407 sq km, five times the size of the nearby city of Hull. At 1.2GW of capacity it will power 1m homes, making it about twice as powerful as today’s biggest offshore wind farm once it is completed in the second half of this year.
“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,” said Matthew Wright, UK managing director of Ørsted, the world’s biggest offshore wind farm builder.
The power station is only the first of four planned in the area, with a green light to a second stage due for completion in the early 2020s.
The first two phases will use 7MW turbines, which are taller than London’s Gherkin building.
But the latter stages of the Hornsea development could use even more powerful, 10MW-plus turbines. Bigger turbines will capture more of the energy from the wind and should lower costs by reducing the number of foundations and amount of cabling firms need to put into the water.
The UK has a great wind resource and shallow enough seabed to exploit it, and could even “power most of Europe if it [the UK] went to the extreme with offshore”, he said.
Offshore windfarms could help ministers fill the low carbon power gap created by Hitachi and Toshiba scrapping nuclear plants, the executive suggested. “If nuclear should play less of a role than expected, I believe offshore wind can step up,” he said.
New nuclear projects in Europe had been “dramatically delayed and over budget”, he added, in comparison to “the strong track record for delivering offshore [wind]”.
The turbines for Hornsea One are built and shipped from Siemens Gamesa’s factory in Hull, part of a web of UK-based suppliers that has sprung up around the growing sector. Altogether, about half of the components for the project are made in the UK.