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World's largest offshore wind farm officially opened

The world’s largest offshore wind farm, the London Array,  has been officially opened by the Prime Minister David Cameron. 



The huge 100km2 installation - which is located in the outer Thames Estuary - features 175 Siemens 3.6MW turbines with a combined generating capacity of 630MW.  The facility is expected to produce enough electricity to power over half a million UK homes each year.

The site has been developed by a consortium made up of DONG Energy, Denmark’s biggest energy company, which has a 50 per cent share; E.On Renewables, which owns 30 per cent; and Masdar,  the Abu Dhabi state-owned renewable energy company, which owns 20 per cent of the facility.

Originally, Shell had a large share in the venture, but the Anglo-Dutch oil giant pulled out in 2008 throwing the future of the project into doubt until Masdar came on the scene.

Construction began in July 2009 when work started to build a new onshore substation on the north Kent coast. The first offshore foundation was installed in March 2011, and the final turbine was installed in December 2012. The facility began generating power for the grid in October 2012

Over 75 organisations, and around 6,700 individuals have been involved in the construction of the facility.

Speaking at the launch event, Brent Cheshire, UK Country Chairman, DONG Energy said: “This project is also a real milestone on the path to cutting the cost of offshore wind. As projects get even bigger and move further offshore, we must continue to harvest the advantages of scale to bring down the costs.”

The facility’s status as the worlds largest wind farm might be relatively short lived however.   In Scotland,  Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd - a joint venture between SSE renewables and Repsol Neuvas Energias - wants to install a 1000MW facility, consiting of up to 277 turbines in the Moray Firth. Meanwhile, Moray Offshore Renwables Ltd (a joint venture between EDP Renewables) and Repsol Nuevas) has submitted an application for an even bigger 1500MW installation in the outer Moray Firth .

London Array Facts

  • An offshore area of 100km2
  • 175 wind turbines
  • Two offshore substations
  • Nearly 450km of offshore cabling
  • One onshore substation
  • 630MW of electricity
  • Enough power for nearly half a million homes a year – two thirds of the homes in Kent
  • CO2 savings of 925,000 tonnes a year

Readers' comments (13)

  • It would be interesting to see how much the domestic customers are subsidising the project, and the amount of CO2 consumed to construct it. No one seems to quote the overall cost benefit analysis.

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  • Now we really need to get moving on getting more electric vehicles on our roads so their batteries can store the intermittent power from these and future wind farms, solar panels, tidal and wave and other renewable energy schemes.

    We have around 30 million vehicles in the UK at present (nearly a billion in the world) almost all with ICE motors. Converting just 3% of these vehicles to electric power would provide some 10GW of power storage capacity assuming only 50% are on charge and each has a 20 kWhr battery.

    Conversion of existing roadworthy cars to electric power is not difficult and gives them a new lease of life after their ICE engines, exhaust systems, catalytic converters, water pumps, radiators etc have reached the end of their economic lives. By extending their lives as electric vehicles not only do they become much more efficient in their energy use but "reuse" (the top item in the waste reduction heirarchy), allows the inbuilt carbon footprint from when they were first manufactured to be extended over many more years.

    As an example, the A Class Mercedes, a perfect size for an electric vehicle, designed for the Californian market in 1997 with space for fuel cells or batteries under the rear seat, has a manufacturers corrosion warranty on the body of 30 years. So why crush and recycle a perfectly sound body, seats (often leather), transmission and supsension system, window glass, etc etc when it has reached perhaps only a third of its potential life?

    I am not a great fan of windpower as accessibility for maintenance of offshore wind turbines must be a headache for those responsible in heavy weather. (Have you ever tried getting people and materials from a bobbing vessel onto a fixed structure at sea in heavy seas and gale force winds?

    But now we have them lets make them welcome and do what we can to improve their efficiency by storing their power in EV batteries rather than wasting it when demand is low.

    Its a pity we didn't cut a solar power deal with Masdar, the Abu Dhabi state-owned renewable energy company, which owns 20 per cent of the Thames Array facility.

    For example for every say 1 MW of wind power Masdar own in the North Sea they build say 10MW of Concentrated Solar Power (using molten salt to give 24hrs per day electrical power by heat exchange with water to rasie steam) in the Abu Dhabi desert where the sun's energy is at its most intense. UK PLC contract with Masdar and the Abu Dhabi Govt (and other MENA area countries) to take this solar power for the life of the CSP plant. It would be fed into the nearest point in the European grid by HVDC cables with only 3% loss per 1000 km. The EU would then credit the UK with the low carbon electricity that we have supplied to the EU wide electricity network.


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  • How much did it cost? What are the operation and maintenance costs? What is the cost per kWh generated? What is the cost of the transmission facilities needed for this wind farm with a capacity factor of something like 30%?

    Who pays for the generating capacity needed when the wind is not blowing – as it obviously is not in the photograph.

    If, in spite of the fact that the world has stopped warming, you still want to reduce carbon dioxide, Converting from coal generation to gas-fired generation is the best way of doing this. Nuclear power is the next best way of doing this.

    This windfarm exists only because the crazy government has decided to subsidise an ineffective, expensive and futile method of fighting (non-existent) global warming".

    The only thing it does effectively is rob the poor to subsidise the rich. It is disgraceful beyond belief.

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  • Interesting that the two 'biggest' wind farms in the world are in UK waters. I refuse to believe the UK has the only recoverable wind globally so what other factors affect this statistic. Subsidies perhaps?

    I also wonder if we will ever get true ROI's on any large wind generating facilities.

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  • All the alternative power generations schemes require massive government subsidies to be built and operated. But no one lists the true costs of the energy to be supplied, ie cost per KW/hr supplied to a consumer and compare it to coal fired cost and or nuclear. Green Clean Electricity has developed a new process that operates 24/7 and is more competitive than wind or solar.

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  • !•Enough power for nearly half a million homes a year – two thirds of the homes in Kent"

    Are you talking about power or energy?

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  • Mike, I keep seeing the idea of using EV battteries to store renewable electricity on behalf of the grid, however if I owned a Nissan Leaf (or similar) I would be reluctant to give away any of the 2000-3000 charge cycle battery life before facing the bill (£10k?) for a new battery.

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  • This is a good project and a model for all developing countries such as in the Philippines and in other ASEAN countries.

    Indeed, this free energy from wind is harnessed wisely for power generation and for the reduction of worldwide CO2 emission.


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  • The London Array looks great, and the story sounds great but of course it’s mostly fiction from the great Marketer of this day, David Cameron.

    No figures on cost or payback or efficiency or relevance.
    175 windmills working flat out might just produce half the power of the Iron Bridge PS sat presently doing nothing and its essential staff and plant about to be made redundant.

    Glamour Energy projects won't keep the lights on after 2018/19.
    Only new base load power stations which are 2 GW or more will.
    That means more unaffordable gas from the private companies that have us by the commercial throat, and the too late nuclear schemes which will get the blame.

    Cameron should be remembered for this Wind Folly, (as Thatcher is for Dash for Gas 1), for this great incompetence, along with Green Peace who are bringing us back to the era of Georgian CANDLE power.

    Energy engineers are fed up to the back teeth with the incompetence of governments who play games with our essential services.

    Maybe as in Egypt, we should ask our Army, (before it is neutered beyond recognition), to depose this government, who are failing the public in the Energy obligation, not in 2015, but now, whilst we still have 5 years to avoid the avoidable.

    Wind power for base load is just ridiculous.

    Don't wait for the news, that the LA is producing 300 MW (just 50% of its predicted energy output), because it’s not going to happen with this marketing fiasco.

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  • Germany is leading the way in creating a system of wind power coupled to HVDC lines 1,000's of km long to provide baseload energy nationally.

    The British may have the largest single farms, but the Germans have over 30 GW of total installed capacity all over the country as of 2013. The wide distribution of wind farms connected to HVDC corridors and breakthroughs in inverters for smart & fast demand response solves the problem of wind intermittency. The goal was to wean Germany off Nuclear Power after the fallout from Fukushima, which I hope everyone remembers.

    I anxiously await the rollout of similar HVDC lines connecting the wind dense central prairies & sun soaked southwest states here in the US to major population centers.

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