The UK is the European leader in offshore wind power
Vhe world’s largest wind farm recently went into operation. Hornsea 2 is located in the North Sea, almost 90 kilometers off the coast of the east English county of Yorkshire. 165 turbines are now rotating there. Around 1.4 million households are supplied with electricity by the wind farm’s 1.3 gigawatts of installed capacity, reports the operator, the Danish Ørsted group. It is another milestone in Britain’s strategy to expand offshore wind power. Their capacities are expected to increase by a factor of four in this decade.
There’s bigger news every month. Parts of the largest Scottish wind farm called Seagreen have just gone online. Scottish energy company SSE and French oil company Total are behind the £3 billion project. In the far north, the wind is particularly strong and constant. Seagreen is expected to cover the electricity needs of 1.5 million households by 2023.
No other country Europe is expanding offshore wind power as fast as the UK. It is in second place worldwide. With its vast coastline, China has 25 gigawatts of offshore capacity. It is followed by Great Britain with more than 13 gigawatts (GW), followed by Germany (just under 8 GW), the Netherlands (almost 4 GW) and Denmark (2.5 GW). The British have the ambition to expand their offshore wind capacities particularly quickly.
Accelerated approval procedures
The resigned Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to make the island the “Saudi Arabia of the wind”. Accelerated planning and approval procedures should allow new wind farms to progress more quickly, promises Kwasi Kwarteng, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has been badly shot at the moment because of his tax plans.
A good twenty years ago, the first offshore wind farm in the kingdom started near Blyth. Today, offshore wind turbines generate an average of a quarter of the electricity mix. The government plans to quadruple the installed capacity by 2030 to 50 gigawatts. The goal is to use it to generate 60 percent of the electricity. For comparison: Germany plans to expand offshore capacity to 30 GW and a 20 percent share of electricity generation by 2030. “So the UK is planning three times as much offshore power production as Germany,” explains Ryan Alexander of energy consultancy Aurora, which has offices in Oxford and Berlin.
Why is Britain so strong a lead in offshore wind power in Europe? “On the one hand, it is due to the length of the coastline, shallow water and the good wind locations around the island,” explains Peter Frohböse from the technical classification and consulting company DNV in Norway. “On the other hand, the British have also made good use of their history in the offshore sector of the oil and gas industry.” While the offshore sector in Germany has largely come to a standstill in recent years, the British have developed their offshore wind farms in a targeted manner; there are regularly new auctions for new locations. “Compared to the existing wind farms in Germany, Great Britain has large areas for new wind farms and is therefore very industry and developer-friendly,” says Frohböse.
“An open and stable environment”
Recent competitions for new offshore wind farms show just how big strides the UK is making. In the fourth round for England and Wales by the Crown Estate (“Crown Estate”) this summer, more than ten companies bid for the six projects totaling 8GW of capacity. The German utility RWE Renewables, the French group Total, a consortium of EnBW and BP and a Spanish joint venture were awarded contracts.