The world’s second-largest offshore wind farm, capable of generating enough clean renewable energy to power 530,000 homes each year, was opened officially off England’s east coast on Wednesday, August 7.
Energy and Business Minister Michael Fallon opened the 500 megawatt Greater Gabbard wind farm located approximately 23 km off the Suffolk coast, The 1.3 billion pound ($2 billion) project is a 50-50 joint partnership between SSE and RWE Innogy.
As well as a delivering a significant boost to the UK’s renewable energy supply, Greater Gabbard represents a £1.6bn investment in new UK energy infrastructure that has resulted in considerable economic benefit for the UK and local economy. Around £500m has been invested with UK companies, representing 50% of the total costs excluding turbine purchase.
Greater Gabbard has been a pioneering project for the UK offshore wind industry. For many years it was the largest wind farm under development world-wide and was the first to be sited more than 12 miles offshore. It continues to be the furthest from shore and, in depths of up to 34 metres, is in the deepest water of any commercial UK offshore wind asset.
Over 8 million working hours were spent developing and constructing the project. Construction commenced in 2008 and was completed in September 2012. The 140 Siemens turbines are located over an area of 147 square kilometres.
Around 100 new jobs have been created at the £1.5 million operations and maintenance base in Lowestoft harbour (where around 95% of employees are from the local area). The base has been an important part of the regeneration of the old Waveney fish market building in Lowestoft and contracts awarded to local companies, such as Iceni workboats and 3Sun, represent a significant investment into the local supply chain.
Minister of State for Energy, the Rt. Hon. Michael Fallon MP, said: “The UK leads the world in offshore wind power generation with more capacity than the rest of the world combined, and we want to see this sector grow even further.
“Greater Gabbard has already brought jobs and wider benefit to the local community, with hundreds of people employed on site, and a £150,000 fund created to support local initiatives, which will be managed by Suffolk Community Foundation.
“It has also benefited local business. Today, I visited Seajacks, a British company based in Great Yarmouth, who are building the world’s largest and most advanced offshore wind farm installation vessel to transport turbines out to this great wind farm.
“This sector is an engine of our economy. By the end of this decade, tens of thousands of additional jobs could be created in the supply-chain for offshore wind throughout the UK.”
Although the wind farm has been operational since September 2012, today marks the “official opening” of the wind farm.
As well as the Energy Minister, invited guests from the local community and the offshore wind industry heard from the Chief Executive of SSE, about the successful operation of the wind farm and how innovation was improving efficiency and driving down costs; and from the Chief Executive of RWE Innogy about the future potential of offshore wind in the UK.
SSE Chief Executive, Alistair Phillips-Davies said: “The last ten years has seen substantial progress in both the number and scale of UK offshore wind farm developments. Greater Gabbard has been a pioneering project during this period and can proudly take its place as a major milestone in the development of the UK offshore wind industry.
“This pioneering approach has continued now that the wind farm is fully operational. This can be seen in the constant focus on safe operations, driving down costs and improving efficiency through innovation, and the clear commitment to ensure that success offshore brings onshore benefits to local people, businesses and the wider economy.
“We look forward to continuing this approach and playing our part in the development of the Galloper offshore wind farm, which will see us continue our strong partnership with RWE. We are ready to work with the UK Government to create the right environment for this to happen.”
RWE Innogy Chief Executive, Dr Hans Bünting said: “An incredible amount of partnership working, innovation and hard work has resulted in the successful completion of Greater Gabbard. As we’ve heard today UK energy supply, investment, jobs and community causes have all been significantly boosted as a result of the project.
“These projects, of national infrastructure significance, can and do deliver huge benefits to the UK. In Greater Gabbard’s sister project, Galloper, which recently received planning consent, there is potential to continue this legacy. Offshore and onshore wind technologies are a perfect match for the future energy mix in Europe. Now is the time to set the course for offshore wind in Europe for the next investment period, especially in the UK and Germany, the major growth markets for offshore wind in the EU.”
Supply chain companies that were invited to the event were able to promote the innovative solutions they have found to assist the growth of the offshore wind industry – this included a demonstration of Cyberhawk, a remotely operated aerial camera used to inspect and survey offshore turbines.
Local causes that have benefited from the construction of the project were also invited along to the event. £150,000 has been given to the Suffolk Community Foundation to help support local community groups and a further £300,000 was donated to the RNLI to support training for volunteers.