Blue Ocean has been reporting on Great Britain’s leading roll in fighting plastic pollution with initiatives to ban single-use plastics and microbeads in cosmetics. But did you know that they were also leaders in offshore wind energy?
Fighting Ocean Plastic Pollution
Much of the action banning single-use plastic was spurred on by the BBC, Blue Planet II series produced by famed conservationist, David Attenborough. Along with spectacular film footage the series highlighted the dangers of plastic pollution in our oceans. During filming on a Pacific Island, Attenborough was horrified when he saw seabirds feeding their chicks bits of plastic trash mistaken for food. This publicity led the government to introduce legislation banning plastic grocery bags and other single-use plastic products. Even the Prime Minister and the Queen publicly commented on the need for action.
Leading in Offshore Wind Energy
Europe has led in the development of offshore wind power with the first farm built off Denmark in 1991. By the end of 2014 there were 6,562 turbines in 84 offshore wind farms, in the seas off 11 European countries with the United Kingdom having the greatest capacity. By 2018 Great Britain was building 50% of all offshore wind energy capacity in Europe.
Update: Britain has hit a “major green milestone,” as its total renewable electricity capacity surpassed fossil fuels for the first time, experts revealed on Nov. 6th. Over the past five years, the capacity from renewables has tripled while a third of fossil fuel generating capacity has retired, as reported in EcoWatch. Wind farms are providing the largest share of renewable capacity on the system, with more than 20GW available and Solar providing more than 13GW. Offshore wind power provides 45% of Great Britain’s total wind power capacity.
Covering an area of 145 square kilometers (55 square miles) the world’s largest offshore wind farm opened in the Irish Sea on Thursday. The 659-megawatt Walney Extension, located 19 kilometers off the coast of Cumbria, England, consists of 87 turbines and is capable of generating enough renewable energy to power almost 600,000 UK homes.
Being surrounded by the sea Great Britain is one of the world’s best locations for wind power. Construction began in 2012 on the Gwynt y Mor wind farm off the north coast of Wales and the power began to flow in 2013. At the time the 160 turbines at Gwynt y Mor were one of the world’ largest offshore wind farms, a distinction that did not last long. It is now the fourth largest, with 175 turbines in what is known as the “London Array” gaining the distinction as the world’s largest offshore wind farm. Located 20 kilometers off the Kent coast in the outer Thames estuary it provides a peak rate of 630 MW.
Now under construction is the Hornsea Wind Farm which when completed will replace the London Array as the world’s largest, greatly exceeding that production by generating a total of 1200MW. The Hornsea wind farm is in the North Sea, 28 kilometers off the coast of Yorkshire. Split into four phases, when finished in the mid-2020s, the site in total will cover 4,730 square kilometers, and comprise 300 giant turbines towering to a height of 620 feet (190 m) each, and anchored at depths between 22 and 73 meters. In the planning stage is the Dogger Bank project estimated to eventually produce 4,800MW.
In 2011 the US Energy Information Agency reported that off-shore wind power is the most expensive energy generating technology and in 2013 they stated that the “offshore shore wind market doesn’t look as if it is going to be big.” That appraisal has certainly not slowed the expansion of Europe’s offshore wind energy industry. The Europeans estimate that with costs diminishing with scale (and they have certainly scaled up), the costs will shortly become competitive with fossil fuels. It would seem that once again the rest of the world is blowing by the United States.
Having just finished a research trip to Great Britain we will be bringing you several articles on how the United Kingdom is leading the way in meeting the challenges of climate change, clean energy, recycling and the efforts of local communities to clean up their beaches and coastlines. Stay tuned.
By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
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