Full power output has been achieved more than two months ahead of schedule from West of Duddon Sands offshore wind farm, a major renewable energy project which has been developed by ScottishPower Renewables and DONG Energy in the Irish Sea.
The news came on the day that the 389 megawatt (MW) windfarm was officially opened by Energy Secretary Ed Davey, joined by ScottishPower and Iberdrola Chairman Ignacio Galan and DONG Energy Executive Vice President Wind Power, Samuel Leupold.
Located approximately 20km off the Barrow-in-Furness coastline in North West England, engineers have installed and commissioned the 108 turbines and foundations in record time, using advanced construction techniques.
Over 1,000 people have been employed on the project, which has also seen more than 200 km of undersea cables installed. The total area covered by the windfarm is 67km², and each individual Siemens turbine has a capacity of 3.6MW. Now fully operational, the windfarm will generate enough electricity to meet the annual electricity demands of approximately 280,000 homes.
West of Duddon Sands has led the renewable energy industry in efforts to reduce the cost of offshore wind. One of the biggest benefits to the project has been the new £50m offshore wind terminal at Belfast Harbour. The terminal is the first purpose-built offshore wind installation and pre-assembly harbour in the UK and Ireland and supports up to 300 jobs, ranging from welders to electricians and engineers. The size and scale of the harbour has allowed for continual delivery of turbine components, and round-the-clock operations.
The project also benefitted from using two of the world’s largest and most advanced installation vessels, which allowed work to continue offshore during one of the worst winters for storm force winds in recent history. Working in tandem, the Pacific Orca and the Sea Installer vessels were used to install all of the foundations and the turbine components. The Pacific Orca is the world’s largest windfarm installation vessel with a length of 161 metres, a breadth of 49 metres and a depth of 10.4 metres.
The electricity generated initially connects in to a specially designed offshore substation. The voltage from the turbines is increased and two export cables then take the electricity ashore to the onshore substation at Heysham, where the windfarm is connected to the UK national grid. The Operations and Maintenance base for the windfarm is a newly constructed facility in Barrow, which will support up to 40 highly-skilled jobs for at least the next 20 years.
Energy Secretary, Edward Davey, said: “This wind farm will generate enough clean electricity to power more than a quarter of a million homes and give the local economy a major and sustained boost. “We want an energy mix that is built on diverse, home grown sources to make sure our supplies are clean and secure. Wind has a huge role to play, which is why the UK is the best place in the world to invest in offshore wind projects.”