According to Brent Cheshire, offshore wind is meeting the UK energy challenge
While our political relationship with Europe may be changing, the UK remains in pole position to take advantage of the vast benefits that offshore wind can provide. Surrounded by relatively shallow seas and benefiting from consistent and strong winds, the country is blessed with near perfect conditions to harness this renewable generation technology. It will still come as a surprise to many that the UK has to-date installed more offshore wind capacity than any other country in the world. Moreover, there is no evidence to suggest that this capacity growth is going to stop anytime soon. There is both the scope and willingness to further exploit this green technology as its plays a major part in the transformation of the country’s energy infrastructure.
And critics who suggest that offshore wind costs are too high are rapidly being silenced. Offshore wind costs are falling rapidly as a highly motivated industry embraces economies of scale, technical innovation and engages with an increasingly switched on supply chain to ensure the technology is competitive with other energy sources.
The potential of offshore wind is immense. An Offshore Wind Vision document, produced by many of the UK offshore wind industry’s leading players last November, suggested that the energy source could if required meet 35 per cent of the UK’s electricity demand as soon as 2030. A target that would have been unimaginable 15 years ago.
The UK’s offshore wind sector can today produce over five gigawatts of electricity – enough to power well over four million UK homes. The last five years have been instrumental in achieving this significant milestone, with 3.7 gigawatts of capacity built in this short time span. By 2020 the total UK installed capacity is set to climb to around ten gigawatts and a further ten gigawatts should be added by 2030.
The Government has demonstrated that it is alert to the significant progress the offshore wind industry is making. Its high-profile energy policy re-set last year contained welcome news for the sector. It showed that the Government recognises the potential benefits offshore wind brings to the table as the UK seeks to accelerate its transition away from fossil fuels and towards a low carbon economy.
The industry is now well placed to become a key pillar in the government’s industrial strategy, providing jobs, local content opportunities and technology advances that will provide the UK with a unique advantage in the sector.
Having been given much needed certainty around volume, the major developers in offshore wind are working hard with the leading manufacturers to introduce larger, more efficient turbines and ensure that offshore wind can compete on cost with other generation sources as soon as possible.
Increased adoption of the renewable technology has a big role to play in addressing climate change while simultaneously bolstering energy security – ‘keeping the lights on’. The UK faces the challenge of ensuring the nation’s energy demands are met as traditional generation sources are retired and new green technologies adopted to support the transition to a low-carbon economy. At present, the EU imports around 90 per cent of its oil and about 65 per cent of its gas at a cost of some EUR 400 billion per year1. It is logical to try and divert some of that money towards indigenous energy resources and domestic job creation in order to reap the many benefits of self-sufficiency.
At DONG Energy we are working to build green, reliable and efficient energy systems in the markets where we operate. With four offshore wind projects currently in the construction phase, and several more in our development pipeline, we are on course to double our offshore wind capacity by 2020. Hornsea Project One – being be built 75 miles off the Yorkshire coast – will alone produce 1200MW, enough to meet the electricity needs of over one million UK homes.
Wind turbine manufacturers are continually working to reduce turbine mass, as it enables them to build taller and lighter wind turbines, which can harness more powerful winds at greater heights. This September DONG Energy installed the first 8MW wind turbine at the 258MW Burbo Bank Extension offshore wind farm, in Liverpool Bay.
At 195 metres, the MHI Vestas turbines are taller than the Gherkin in London (180m). Bigger turbines mean providing clean, renewable energy to homes around the UK, at a lower cost. As well as using the biggest turbines in the world, the 80m blades for the new 8MW turbines will also be using the first locally built blades to be installed at a UK offshore wind farm. The blades have been designed, tested, and manufactured on the Isle of Wight and assembled at MHI Vestas’ pre-assembly facility in Belfast.
It may have gone relatively unnoticed, but offshore wind has already become an integral part of the UK’s renewable energy mix. The industry has nurtured a growing UK supply chain and created thousands of highly skilled, well-paid jobs across the country, including high quality apprenticeships for our next generation of engineers.
From increased turbine sizes to cutting edge technology, the industry continues to develop and adapt. As one of theUK’s fastest-growing energy sectors, with immense potential for further growth in future, it deserves to be recognised as a national success story.
Brent Cheshire is UK Country Chairman, DONG Energy. DONG Energy is one of the leading energy groups in Northern Europe, headquartered in Denmark. With over 20 years’ experience in the development, construction and operation of offshore wind farms, DONG Energy is proud to be showing leadership in this sector. Around 6700 ambitious employees, including over 700 in the UK, are engaged in developing, constructing and operating offshore wind farms; as well as generating power and heat from DONG’s power stations; providing energy to residential and business customers on a daily basis; and producing oil and gas.
For further information please visit: dongenergy.co.uk