Offshore Farm Pushes UK To 6 GW Of Wind Power

In addition to hosting the world’s largest wind turbines, the Ormonde Offshore Wind Farm off the coast of Barrow-in-Furness in the United Kingdom now has another distinction: With 24 of the 30 turbines commissioned—accounting for 120 megwatts (MW)— it has pushed the U.K. over the 6-gigawatt (GW) mark in total wind power capacity. That’s enough to supply electricity to 3,354,893 homes, give or take a country cottage or two.

New offshore wind capacity at Ormonde and the Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm — the world’s largest offshore wind farm — accounted for two-thirds of all new renewable energy capacity installed in the U.K. last year. And that growth shows no signs of slowing down. Over 19 GW of capacity is currently under construction, consented, or in the planning stages. Last year, the Crown Estate awarded five new offshore wind leases in Scottish waters, including the massive 450-megawatt (MW) Neart na Gaoithe project. This year, a new round of solicitations has been issued for up to 800 MW of offshore wind development off the coast of Northern Ireland.

U.K. offshore wind power

image via Vattenfall

RenewableUK, the trade association representing the U.K.’s renewable energy industries, is celebrating the industry’s achievement of this milestone. The organization made the announcement at its Annual Parliamentary Reception.

“This is a significant milestone for the wind industry which demonstrates the increasingly important role that renewable energy is playing in the U.K.’s energy mix,” said Danny Alexander MP, chief secretary to the Treasury and keynote speaker at the event. “We are eager to ensure that the U.K. becomes the natural home for the most innovative, ambitious and inspiring renewable energy companies in the world, and we will continue to work with the industry to drive down costs and encourage even stronger growth in the years to come”.

ormonde-2

image via Vattenfall

The government’s Renewable Energy Roadmap calls for 31 GW of onshore and offshore wind by 2020, and a total renewable target of 15 percent by 2020. Scotland’s own target of generating 100 percent of its electricity needs from renewables by 2020 will include 5 GW of its own offshore wind resources—much of which will presumably be exported to help England or other European Union countries meet their targets.

By comparison, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the U.K. still trails behind Texas, the top U.S. state in terms of wind power capacity with over 10 GW. But it has more wind power than the second leading state, Iowa (3.6 GW). As a whole, the European Union had almost twice as much wind power capacity as the U.S. at the end of 2010. As of the third quarter of 2011, the U.S. had over 43 GW of installed wind power capacity, but none of it offshore.

Lauren Craig is a writer and consultant living in Seattle, WA. She holds an M.S. in International Development from Tulane University, and is co-founder of Sustainable Systems Integrators, LLC., an employee-owned solar energy design and installation firm in New Orleans, LA. She is also certified in PV design and installation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).