Last Saturday the world’s largest wind farm, the London Array, was connected to the grid and became fully operational. Comprised of 175 Siemens wind turbines each with a capacity of 3.6 MW, the massive energy project has been under construction since March 2011. A peak output it is expected to generate 630MW, finally putting Britain’s notoriously bad weather to good use.
Located nearly 18 miles offshore on the outer Thames Estuary, the London Array’s 175 turbines are spread across 90 square miles. Building an array of this size on the open seas was no small feat. Even setting aside its sheer scale, the Array had to be built in the notoriously rough winters of the English Channel, which while wonderful for powering a wind farm, but not so much for building one.
According to Project Director Richard Rigg, “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.”
With the Array now up and running the people of south east England should begin receiving clean, green renewable energy immediately. Tony Cocker, CEO of E.ON UK, a partner in the London Array, said, “[The] 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.”
While the London Array’s 630MW capacity is impressive, the energy consortium that owns the project says that it has plans to further expand the Array to product up to 870MW.
While the London Array may be the world’s largest wind farm today, already several projects are under development to create offshore wind farms in the UK, Sweden and Japan that will eclipse the capacity of the London Array. Chief among these projects is the Bleking Offshore wind farm being considered by Sweden’s environmental court. If approved, the Swedish wind farm could one day generate 2.5GW from the winds of the Baltic Sea.
Image Courtesy of Dong Energy