Showcase for the world

Brent Cheshire discusses the UK’s wind energy market and highlights the significance of DONG Energy’s Burbo Bank extension project, which will add an extra 258MW of capacity to the existing Burbo Bank wind farm

Offshore wind looks set to make a growing contribution to the UK electricity supplies this year, with the first contribution from the next generation of colossal eight megawatt (MW) turbines due to make their mark.

These awe-inspiring structures, which will feature in DONG Energy’s pioneering Burbo Bank Extension project located in Liverpool Bay, represent a major technological leap forward for the industry.

The MHI Vestas manufactured machines will measure 195 metres from sea level to the tips of the blades at the top of their rotation, which makes them taller than London’s iconic Gherkin building. But they are significant not only because of their scale but because they will also help to reduce the cost of electricity from the offshore wind industry.

The innovation involved in designing, constructing and connecting bigger and more technologically advanced offshore turbines is helping the industry to demonstrate its progress in achieving greater efficiency, with fewer turbines required to produce a given electricity output. Crucially, as the cost of energy production falls, the sector becomes less reliant on state support.

We are on a journey to achieve parity in terms of cost with other energy technologies. The latest stage has seen us setting an ambitious goal of driving down the costs of offshore wind power by 35-40 per cent by 2020, and we are well on our way to accomplishing this.

The UK government’s high-profile energy policy re-set, unveiled by the Energy Secretary Amber Rudd at the end of last year, contained positive signals for the industry. It showed that the Department for Energy and Climate Change recognises the many benefits offshore wind can deliver as the UK moves towards a low carbon economy. This in turn provides the sector with certainty around volume, which will ultimately lead to costs falling even further.

Indeed, backing offshore wind is a common sense approach. It is a clean, reliable source of energy that is crucial to helping the UK meet its renewable energy targets. Moreover, increased adoption of the technology is fundamental to the fight against global warming and efforts to enhance UK and European energy security.

The EU, for example, currently imports about 90 per cent of its oil and around 65 per cent of its gas, spending some 400 billion euros per year in the process. It makes good sense to divert some of that money towards indigenous energy resources and job creation in member states instead.

There is also a clear economic imperative to facilitate the expansion of the offshore wind industry. The contribution it makes to UK PLC for example is enormous, especially in the North of England, where one of the Government’s flagship policies is to build a Northern Powerhouse.

Since 2004, DONG Energy – the world leader in offshore wind, producing more energy from the technology than any other company – has invested more than £6bn into the UK economy and is on course to double that investment by 2020.

Burbo Bank extension is a microcosm of that investment and indicative of the positive role offshore wind has to play in regenerating Northern towns and cities. With offshore construction getting underway this summer, the project will create 135 full time jobs locally and provide £4.2m of value added to the UK economy each year.

The development builds on the success of DONG Energy’s existing Burbo Bank wind farm situated on the Burbo Flats in Liverpool Bay, at the entrance to the River Mersey. With its 25 turbines, it is capable of generating up to 90MW of clean, sustainable electricity.

Covering 40km² of ocean, the Burbo Bank Extension will add an extra 258MW of capacity and will have the potential to power around 180,000 homes in the UK. An offshore inter-array network will connect the electricity from each turbine and transfer it to a new offshore substation located within the project site. A three-core submarine cable will then run approximately 20km to land along the coast between Prestatyn and Rhyl in Denbighshire.

As the volume of offshore windfarms increases, it has been possible to increase the amount of UK content in projects and encourage the big turbine manufacturers to set up plants in the UK.

The blades for the Burbo Bank Extension turbines are being manufactured at the MHI Vestas factory on the Isle of Wight. When it opened in 2011, it was the first facility in the world to design, manufacture and test such large blades for the latest wind turbines – establishing the UK’s reputation as a world leader in the field.

Offshore wind has been an integral part of the UK’s renewable energy mix in recent years and deserves to be trumpeted as a national success story. It is one of the UK’s fastest-growing industries and harbours immense potential for further growth in future.

Moreover, the industry has fostered a growing UK supply chain and created thousands of highly skilled employment opportunities nationwide, including high quality apprenticeships for young people.

DONG Energy is proud to be building on this rich heritage and spearheading a new charge that will cement the UK’s place at the forefront of the global offshore wind industry.

In 2015 we successfully commissioned 35 Siemens 6MW direct drive turbines at Westermost Rough off the Holderness Coast – the first time anywhere in the world these turbines have been used on a large scale.

Now, with projects like Burbo Bank Extension under construction, the UK is poised to showcase to the world a bigger, better and crucially, more cost-effective form of renewable energy.

DONG Energy UK
Brent Cheshire is Country Chairman and Managing Director at DONG Energy UK. DONG Energy is the leading developer of offshore wind in the UK and globally. It has been the market leader since it built the first offshore wind farm Vindeby, in Denmark, in 1991 and now has offshore wind farms in the UK and Germany.

Its largest offshore wind fleet is situated within the UK, meeting the electricity needs of almost 1.5 million homes. Its investment (£6 billion to date) is helping the country shift to a low carbon economy and meet its 2020 renewable energy targets. As well as being the market leader in offshore wind, DONG Energy invests in the exploration and production of oil and gas, along with selling gas and electricity to commercial customers.

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