THE BURGEONING renewable energy sector in the region has been heralded as a “world leader” as the industry plays an increasing role in servicing some of the world’s largest wind farms.
A significant milestone was reached yesterday towards the UK becoming a low carbon economy with the opening of a new wind farm capable of powering over half a million homes.
Race Bank, which is off the North Norfolk coast will be operated out of Grimsby, as will at least four other huge projects in the pipeline, which will set new records as the world’s largest wind farms as they come on line.
It will make the town “truly a world leader”, said Matthew Wright, MD of the UK arm of Danish energy giant Ørsted.
Many of the blades on the 91 turbines were made across the river at Siemens Gamesa’s factory in Hull.
The firm, which now owns or partly owns 10 offshore wind farms in the UK including Race Bank, expects to see the workforce at its operations and maintenance hub at Grimsby docks double in the next four years.
Speaking at the launch in Grimsby, Mr Wright said: “We have been here seven or eight years and this is our third project.
“We have three more under construction or in planning –Hornsea 1 (1200 MW), Hornsea 2 (1386MW) has been approved and has a final investment decision and will go ahead. We just submitted a planning application for Hornsea 3, which is potentially even larger.”
There is a concept for a fourth wind farm, but that is still in its early stages.
Just as the size of the farms is getting bigger, so is the scale of the turbines. Those used on Race Bank are a little taller than London’s famous Gherkin skyscraper, but the next generation, will be up to 1,000ft from blade tip to sea level.
Mr Wright added: “They are much bigger, more efficient and generate more power.”
Ørsted also unveiled its first “service operation vessel” (SOV), Edda Passat, purpose-built in Spain, to serve the new generation of wind farms, further offshore.
Sporting a range of comforts from a huge flatscreen TV to an excellent restaurant, it carries a crew, including 20 technicians, who can live in comfort while making repairs and servicing the turbines on Race Bank, which is a 56-mile steam from Grimsby. While other wind farms closer inshore use a shuttle service, returning each day to port, the new SOV stays offshore for two weeks, has an assortment of ways to get technicians and equipment on to turbines even in bad weather and carries a warehouse of spare parts.
Deputy operations manager Matthew Lord said the crew is “almost like the AA or the RAC”, adding: “The guys can go on a turbine to look at the hydraulic fluid, and while they are there may notice the coolant level is low. They can ask for parts to be sent and rectify it while they are there, rather than sailing back to Grimsby.”
Technician Georgia Grace, who was about to go home after a two-week shift on Race Bank, was enjoying the comfort the Edda Passat offers.
“Having my own bed and my own bathroom is amazing,” she said. “The ship is comfort class two – just below a cruise liner I believe.
“Most of our time is spent on the turbines so it is nice to come back somewhere luxurious like this after a long day’s work.”
The new vessel mean the crew can work more efficiently and complete repairs without having to return to port.
A second vessel, Edda Mistral will arrive in Grimsby in September, and will be used during the construction of Hornsea 1.