World's Largest Offshore Wind Farm -- 630 MW, 175 Turbines -- Turns on in the UK
July 4, 2013 9:51 PM
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(Source: Siemens AG)
Project cost $2.84B USD, exploits natural abundance of marine winds
Britain's miles of coasts are home to some of the world's most active marine winds, making them a prime place for offshore wind power. The nation this week announced the opening of the world's largest marine wind farm installation, a monstrous 630 Megawatt, 175-turbine design dubbed "
the London Array
I. London Array is Turned On
The new farm is the latest bump for the UK, which has more installed offshore wind capacity than any other nation in the world. The UK currently gets 12 percent of its energy from renewable energy, but it hopes to expand that to 30 percent by 2020. New offshore wind installations are critical to that goal.
The new farm is located along the coastal border of Kent and Essex, to the northeast of London, facing the North Sea. It uses Siemens AG's (
[PDF] (3.6 MW), which has three blades and a diameter of 117 meters. The turbines are installed 20 kilometers (~12.4 miles) off the coast.
Here's some videos of the plans and construction of the farm and supporting substation.
The groups have petitioned to expand the installation to 870 MW, adding another 66 turbines to the current count.
II. Green Profit, But Energy Firms are Hungry for More
The new installation is a joint venture owned by Germany's E.ON SE (
) (30% stake), United Arab Emirates' state-owned Masdar Abu Dhabi Future Energy Comp. (20% stake) and Danish state-owned Dong Energy A/S (50% stake). It cost a whopping €2.2B ($2.84B USD) to build, but is expected to power a half million homes for at least 30 years.
Its total annual generation is estimated by the developers to be 2.1 terawatt-hours (tWh) per year, but perhaps a more realistic metric would be 1.65 tWh, if you take the average capacity factor (29.6 percent) of UK offshore wind farms last year.
UK energy costs around 15 pence ($0.23 USD) per kWh [
], so this works out to somewhere between $379.5-483M USD in revenue per year, or roughly $11.4-14.5B USD in revenue over a 30-year lifespan. However, Prime Minister David Cameron recently announced that the government would mandate incentives to drive the revenue per kWh to three times the base rate, which would be mean over $1B USD in revenue per year.
UK companies want longer term guarantees on gov't renewable energy financing commitments.
[Image Source: Siemens]
The UK has 3.3 GW worth of installed offshore wind capacity. EON estimates the new farm will save 900,000 tons of carbon emissions per year.
While it appears to be a booming era for UK offshore wind, the manufacturers and energy companies are a bit disgruntled at the lack of longer term guarantees from the UK central government. They wanted plans to run through 2030, but only got targets for 2020.
, "[David Cameron's administration] needs to give the sector long-term certainty by agreeing to cut carbon completely from our electricity sector."
London Array [press release]
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RE: Actual versus Nameplate.
7/5/2013 6:31:29 AM
Offshore wind typically has a much higher capacity factor than onshore wind. Onshore is usually around 0.2-0.25 (though certain spots on earth can go much higher). Offshore is usually around 0.3-0.4, though a few spots can get as high as 0.6.
The article states the estimated generation is 2.1 TWh per year. That's 240 MW on average. Divide by the nameplate capacity of 630 MW and you get a capacity factor of 0.38. For comparison, solar is about 0.14 for the US (0.10 for northern Europe), hydro about 0.4, coal about 0.6, and nuclear about 0.9. Those are the numbers you have to divide the nameplate capacity by in order to get an apples to apples comparison of how much generating capacity you need to build.
The problem with offshore wind is that while it generates about 2x as much power per MW of nameplate capacity vs onshore wind, its cost is typically over 2x more, usually a lot more. So how economically viable it is really depends on the specific installation. If you can put it in a spot where construction and maintenance are cheap, it can be better than an onshore installation. In a bad location and it turns into an expensive boondoggle built only to reap government subsidies, and shut down once the subsidies are exhausted.
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