The UK is quickly becoming the epicenter of the offshore wind industry. Point in case: On Monday, the first part of the world’s largest and furthest offshore wind farm came online.
The first workers were shuttled 75 miles off the east coast from Grimsby, UK, to the Hornsea One wind farm, which is partially operational. When it comes fully online next year, it will be capable of generating enough electricity to power a million homes. Right now, it’s “only” capable of powering up to 287,000 homes. But the opening of the farm coupled with plans to construct a twin behemoth nearby shows that offshore wind is growing in leaps and bounds.
The massive wind farm currently has 50 of its 174 turbines spinning. When completed, the project will have a generating capacity of 1.2 gigawatts, more than double the capacity of the current largest offshore wind installation (which is also in the UK). Because of its distance from shore, the team responsible for operating them will spend four weeks at sea before returning to port where another team will head on out and take their place.
“Operating a wind farm this far offshore is unprecedented,” David Coussens, the deputy operating manager for the wind farm, told the trade journal Offshore Wind. “We’ve had to think creatively and come up with new ways of working to overcome the logistical and technical challenges of operating a massive power station 120 km from the shore, about the same distance as Grimsby to Leeds!”
The turbines are located in the North Sea, a notoriously gusty stretch of open water where some of the world’s other large wind farm operate. They feed power back to the UK as well as the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and Scandinavian countries. But of all the countries plopping wind farms in the North Sea, the UK is harnessing the most power.
In a report released on Sunday, Wind Europe showed that the UK has the largest offshore wind generating capacity in Europe. The country has a generating capacity of 8.2 gigawatts, accounting for 44 percent of all offshore wind capacity in Europe. All that capacity is one of the big reasons the UK has had success weaning itself off of coal for increasingly long periods of time.
It also puts other countries to shame, and there’s perhaps no bigger embarrassment than the U.S., which has just 30 megawatts (or 0.03 gigawatts, if you want to feel even more transatlantic shame) of offshore wind capacity. Help could be on the way, though, after the Trump administration held the most successful offshore wind auction in U.S. late last year. Coastal states like New York, New Jersey, and others have also set ambitious targets for getting more electricity from the windy high seas, so they may not be eating the UK’s offshore turbine-blown dust for long.