UK completes construction of world’s largest offshore wind farm

This week the world’s largest offshore wind farm, the London Array, finished construction in UK waters. This now means that both the world’s biggest onshore and offshore wind farms are now supplying electricity to British homes. The London Array was a joint project between Dong Energy, Masdar and EON.

The London Array consists of 175 individual 6MW turbines giving a total installed capacity of 630MWs. This  will provide enough electricity to power nearly half a million homes or expressed another way two thirds of Kent’s housing stock. Additionally the wind farm will reduce the UK’s carbon emissions by 900,000 tonnes a year.

The completion of construction was announced with much fanfare. Richard Rigg, the Project Director stated:

“This is the final major milestone of the construction phase and the culmination of more than two years offshore construction work which began in March 2011 with the installation of the first foundation.

“It has been a complex operation but I am delighted that the commissioning of the wind farm has now been completed on schedule, despite the worst of the winter weather.”

Country Manager for Dong Energy‘s UK Wind Business, Benj Sykes commented:

“Building London Array, the world’s largest offshore wind farm, is a great achievement.

“As we now look to our pipeline of future projects, Dong Energy is determined to drive down the cost of offshore wind farms to €100 per megawatt hour for projects we will be sanctioning in 2020.

“What we have learnt at London Array, together with our continuing focus on innovation in technologies and techniques, will help us achieve that.”

Tony Cocker, Chief Executive Officer at E.ON UK remarked:

“London Array is a significant achievement in renewable energy. The world’s largest operational offshore wind farm will be  capable of generating enough energy  to power nearly half a million homes and reduce harmful CO2 emissions by over 900,000 tonnes a year.

“It’s been a tough time for the team working on site. The recent bad weather and north-easterly winds have whipped up the waves preventing access to the site so this milestone is true reward for their hard work.”

Maria McCaffrey, RenewableUK Chief Executive released the following statement:

“Britain has a real achievement to celebrate here – the largest operational offshore wind farm in the world is generating clean electricity for British homes and businesses . It’s a monumental feat of green engineering. Other massive projects are also coming to fruition in UK waters, such as Teeside, Gwynt y Mor off the coast of North Wales and Gunfleet Sands off the Essex coast, where the next generation of even more powerful offshore turbines is being tested in the water for the first time anywhere in the world.

To hold on the UK’s global lead in offshore wind, it’s vital that we maintain this momentum. We  must ensure that the crucial  legislation going through Parliament right now – the Energy Bill – sets a rock-solid framework to encourage investment in renewables.

“If MPs get the details of the Bill right, we can unlock billions of pounds of investment for more flagship low-carbon projects like London Array, and create 76,000 jobs in the British wind industry by the dawn of the next decade.

“To secure those jobs, and to safeguard employment for future generations, we’re also getting the Government to articulate a clear vision of the scale of its amobition for the wind industry in the longer term, beyond 2020.”

The completion of Phase One of the London Array demonstrates the great strides the British wind industry is taking, delivering much needed growth and jobs to the British economy.  The fact that the UK is now home to the world’s largest offshore and onshore (Whitelees wind farm in South Lanarkshire) wind farms demonstrates the existing strength of the industry. But the potential is there for far more.

Community Benefits

It is frequently the case that any mooted renewable energy development will also propose to establish a community benefit of some sort.

Most often this benefit takes the form of an annual charitable donation or  annual funding given to a local community group to direct where it is felt to be most needed. Community benefits are often one of the most important aspects of any proposed development ;and certainly one of the most relevant to local communities. However, it can be argued that community benefits are frequently one of the less publicised elements of any development. Developers and, it must be said, Local Authorities often fail to successfully get their message across.Debate is often led up the path of spurious speculation on health rather than the concrete benefits developments can bring in these times of ever decreasing central and local funding

In our experience, the potential for community benefits to be lost in the debate over development is not helped by the fact that there is little consistency across Local Authority areas in how such funding is not just collected or administered but if it is even required. For some Local Authorities community benefits are collected and managed by the Local Authority itself; such as in South Lanarkshire. It may be the case that only developments above a certain scale  are required to produce a community benefit. In some councils providing a community benefit is not considered to be mandatory. The lack of consistency between Local Authorities in the requirements for community benefits could be argued to be real hindrance to renewable energy developments in this country. Community benefits are often the most immediately palpable positive part of a development but their impact may be heavily diluted by a lack of public awareness or expectation. Perhaps if community benefits were more widely promoted by both developers and local authorities it would enable local communities to engage more fully with the arguments surrounding potential developments.

We at Intelligent Land Investments would like, at this time, to stress that all of our developments proposed, consented or constructed includes a community benefit regardless of whether one is required by the local authority. Frequently in cases where we are paying into a council managed fund we are paying more than required by that council. In all of the cases in which there is no requirement for a community benefit  we sought out a local charity working widely within the local authority area of a development, helping the vulnerable of that community, ran by members of that community for the benefit of that community.

The Scottish Government has taken some steps to promote and publicise community benefits but more could be done.

The Community Benefit Register, launched last year, which can be found here provides details of all of the community benefits provided by constructed renewable developments. However it is not mandatory to register community benefits on the website let alone mandatory to provide them. More standardisation of community benefits across local authority areas could prove to be extremely beneficial. For instance making the provision of community benefits mandatory across the country would shift the debate from promoting their existence to promoting not just the good work they could fund but the good work they are already funding. We at Intelligent Land Investments feel that promoting such work would have more impact than promoting the difference in projected energy bill pricing between a renewables and fossil fuel based energy system.