Green energy powers ahead in UK: World’s largest offshore wind farm opens off English coast
The world’s largest offshore wind farm opened yesterday off the north-west coast of England, with the unveiling of the Walney Extension project.
The wind farm, operated by Danish energy group Orsted, has a capacity of 659 megawatts (MW), enough to power almost 600,000 homes when conditions are favourable, and overtakes the London Array off England’s east coast which has a capacity of 630 MW.
Walney Extension is made up of 87 turbines built by Siemens Gamesa and MHI Vestas, and covers 145 sq km, which is equivalent to around 20,000 soccer pitches. The 40 eight-megawatt MHI Vestas turbines being used stand 195m tall and are the largest wind turbines in operation globally. Orsted said they have been optimised to generate as much as 8.25 MW each.
Matthew Wright, Orsted UK managing director, said that Britain’s offshore success was due to a combination of strong wind speeds and shallow waters in the North Sea and Irish Sea as well as continued support from the UK government.
“For the last 10 years, governments of all colours have supported renewable energy and offshore wind in the UK, leading to a thriving industry,” he said.
Britain is the world’s largest offshore wind market, hosting 36pc of globally installed offshore wind capacity, data from the Global Wind Energy Council showed.
Walney Extension was among the first renewable projects to secure a so-called contract for difference (CFD) subsidy from the British government in 2014. The contract guarantees it a minimum price for electricity of £150 (€167) per megawatt hour (MWh) for 15 years.
Since this was awarded, the cost of offshore wind has fallen dramatically to a low of £57.50 (€64) per MWh in the last auction held in 2017.
Walney Extension is a shared-ownership project between Orsted (50pc) and two Danish pension funds – PFA and PKA (25pc).
In Ireland, London-based Asper Investment Management and the Craydel Group last month sealed financing for a 43MW wind farm in Co Mayo that will be built by their Invis Energy outfit.
Invis has now raised more than €130m of project finance debt in 2018. It remains on track to close two further financings this year and expects 140MW of its wind energy generation capacity in Ireland to start operating within the next 12 months. Established in 2011, Invis is owned by Asper Investment Management, previously a unit of Hg Capital, and Craydel.
Based in Macroom, Co Cork, Craydel is controlled by businessman Michael Murnane. A 60pc stake in five wind farms in Ireland was sold last year by Invis Energy to a Japanese consortium of Kansai Electric Power, Sojitz Corporation, and Mitsubishi UFJLease and Finance. The five wind farms have a total installed capacity of 223MW.