The world's biggest offshore wind farm was officially opened today after record-fast construction in the middle of the Irish Sea.
The 102 turbines of the two connected Walney wind farms cover an area of 73 square-kilometres and were formally connected to the National Grid in a ceremony today.
With a capacity of 367.2MW, the huge project can provide low-carbon, green electricity to 320,000 homes. The generating capacity of each turbine, supplied by Siemens Wind Power, is 3.6MW, and the rotor diameter of the turbines is 107m for Walney 1 and 120m for Walney 2, with a maximum height of 150m from sea level to blade tip.
Opening the new £1 billion wind farm, Secretary of State Ed Davey, said: "Britain has a lot to be proud of in our growing offshore wind sector. Our island’s tremendous natural resource, our research base and a proud history of engineering make this the number one destination for investment in offshore wind.
"And Walney is the newest, biggest and fastest-built jewel in that crown, providing clean power for hundreds of thousands of households.
"Opening Walney during my first week in office lets me underline my commitment to continuing the Coalition’s work to make this sector a success story for the British economy, not least with the innovation it is driving and the employment it is creating."
The wind farm took two years to complete and is made up of two projects located 15km off Walney Island, Cumbria.
The first power from the Walney 1 offshore wind farm was generated in January 2011 as turbine C05 was put into operation and its first power was supplied to the national grid through the onshore transformer station in Heysham.
The installation of Walney 2 began in March last year, and parallel installation activities shortened the construction timeframe. Crane barges, jack-up vessels and tugs worked out of ports in the East Irish Sea area, primarily Barrow and Mostyn harbours.
These vessels were positioned using state-of-the-art positioning systems for pin-point accuracy. A number of smaller vessels were used to support the work by carrying out surveys and environmental monitoring studies, they will also be used to ferry personnel to and from the wind farm.
Walney 2 offshore wind farm started delivering CO2-free electricity to the UK’s national grid in November.
The project is owned and operated by a consortium of firms including lead partner DONG Energy (50.1%), SSE (Scottish and Southern Energy) (25.1%) and OPW (24.8%), a company jointly owned by Dutch pension administrator PGGM and Ampère Equity Fund (managed by Triodos Investment Management).
Anders Eldrup, CEO at DONG Energy, said: “Walney 2 is the world’s fastest ever installation of an offshore wind farm and this accomplishment underlines DONG Energy’s position as a strong market leader within offshore wind.
“We developed our techniques for faster and more cost efficient installation methods in the challenging conditions in the Irish Sea. This is an important step in the continuing drive to reduce the cost of construction of offshore wind farms.”
Colin Hood, SSE’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “This is a major milestone in the development of the Walney offshore wind farms and it demonstrates the excellent progress being made on the project.
“As the UK’s leading generator of electricity from renewable sources, SSE is committed to helping to increase further the amount of renewable electricity generation in the UK, and the export of electricity at Walney is a step towards achieving this.”
Operation and maintenance of the wind farm is based in Barrow-in-Furness and comprises approximately 60 people, providing opportunities for partnerships with local business throughout the project lifetime and creating jobs in the Furness area.