UK Approves World's Largest Offshore Wind Farm

Photo: Chris Laurens/Vattenfall
The Kentish Flats offshore wind farm seen here generates enough electricity for 100,000 British households

The United Kingdom’s Department for Energy and Climate Change approved the East Anglia ONE offshore wind farm last week, paving the way for the construction of the world’s largest wind farm.

The approximately 240 turbines would have an installed capacity of 1,200 megawatts, more than double the size of the London Array, the largest offshore wind farm currently in existence. That group of turbines has an installed capacity of 630 megawatts.

China has become the world’s largest wind market, with more than 14 gigawatts installed in 2013, according to Pew Charitable Trusts. But the UK still leads the the world in offshore installations. Nearly half of new offshore capacity in 2013 was installed in the UK, according to North American Windpower. Globally, 13 offshore wind projects added a total of 1,720 megawatts in 2013. (As we reported here, 2013 was a banner year for renewables across the board.)

In the next few years, the UK could see increasing company in building offshore wind farms. The European Union has committed €4 million to the Offshore Wind Power Development project in India, which aims to lay the groundwork for offshore development there.

Offshore wind farms may also finally be moving forward in the US, particularly on the East Coast. Even the Cape Wind project, which has been subject to a long legal battle, could begin construction sometime this year.

Japan is also moving forward to tap its offshore wind capacity. Last year, it installed an experimental floating turbine, which would be necessary because the drop off in the continental shelf around Japan makes the waters surrounding its islands mostly too deep for traditional turbine technology.

The East Anglia ONE array, located about 45 kilometers from the Suffolk coast, would have up to four undersea DC cables that would connect onshore with National Grid’s transmission network. National Grid is also planning for another eight cable ducts that could be used for two future East Anglia projects. The project is owned by ScottishPower Renewables and Vattenfall.

East Anglia ONE's more than 200 turbines, covering roughly 300 square kilometers, would create enough energy for about 820,000 British households. The turbines are approved to be up to 200 meters tall.

The world’s largest offshore wind turbine is currently Alstom’s 6-megawatt Haliade turbine that spins off the coast of Belgium. The blades stretch more than 73 meters and the turbine sits more than 100 meters above the sea. But higher-capacity offshore turbines are already in testing, so the title could soon transfer to another turbine.

East Anglia is expected to begin onshore construction in 2016 and offshore installation in 2017. The array could be completed by 2020.  

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