The winds of change

Standing tall in the Irish Sea, a forest of giant wind turbines marks a real shift in power in the energy sector.

Sitting off the Cumbrian coast Walney Extension, the world’s largest operational offshore wind farm, was officially opened at a ceremony in September.

Its 87 turbines are capable of generating enough green energy to power almost 600,000 UK homes.

They include 47 giant 7MW turbines – each taller than Blackpool Tower and with blades manufactured by Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE) at its factory in Greenport, Hull.

The SGRE Humberside operation includes world-class offshore wind manufacturing, assembly and port facilities.

The 659-megawatt (MW) Walney Extension project, owned by Danish energy giant Ørsted and partners PKA and PFA, is spread over an area of 145 square kilometres.

The project has involved key suppliers from across the UK, including York headquartered PortaKabin and Scarborough-based Mainprize Offshore.

Matthew Wright, Ørsted UK managing director, said: “The UK is the global leader in offshore wind and Walney Extension showcases the industry’s incredible success story.

“We’re confident that offshore wind can become the backbone of the UK’s future energy system.

“Offshore wind currently generates over five per cent of UK electricity, which is enough to power more than 4.5 million homes, and this figure is set to double to over 10 per cent in the next two years.

“As well as producing clean energy, the industry is having a positive economic impact.

“Investment in offshore wind is creating new industrial clusters across the UK – supporting thousands of jobs, helping to grow local businesses and to regenerate communities.

“An ever-greater number of UK firms are involved in the development, construction and operation of offshore wind farms – playing a vital part in the industry’s success story and long-term future.”

Energy and clean growth minister Claire Perry says engineering landmarks like Walney Extension are helping the UK consolidate its “global leadership” position.

She added:  “As part of our modern Industrial Strategy we’ve set out a further £557 million of funding for new renewable projects, helping to tackle climate change and deliver clean growth to local economies.”

The wind continues to blow in offshore generation’s direction. This summer Ørsted placed a multi-million pound turbine order with SGRE for its massive Hornsea Project Two offshore wind farm.

When operational in 2022, Hornsea Project Two will take over the title of the largest offshore wind farm in the world. It will have a capacity of 1,386MW which means it will be capable of supplying well over 1.3 million homes with clean electricity.

It is SGRE’s largest ever wind turbine order. It will provide all 165 8MW turbines, with the majority of the blades made in Hull.

The project will use the first ever 81m blades to be manufactured in the UK – as big as an Airbus 380’s total wingspan.

As part of the agreement SGRE also plans to partly source the wind turbine towers from the UK, further strengthening the supply chain.

Duncan Clark, programme director for Hornsea Projects One and Two, said: “The Humber area really is creating a world-leading cluster in offshore wind.

“The SGRE investment in the Hull facility has brought hundreds of jobs to the area, and we feel proud to have supported that through our leading contracts with SGRE.”

Speaking earlier this year, Ray Thompson, UK head of business development for SGRE, said: “Offshore wind has gone from being an expensive technology but a green choice, to the cheapest utility-scale form of electricity generation.”

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