A SIGNIFICANT milestone has been reached towards the UK becoming a low carbon economy with the opening today of a new wind farm off the East Coast, capable of powering over half a million homes.
The Humber is playing an increasingly significant role with at least four other huge projects in the pipeline, which will set new records as the world’s largest as they come on line.
Like the latest wind farm, Race Bank, which is off the North Norfolk coast, they will be operated out of Grimsby, making it “truly a world leader,” said Matthew Wright, managing director 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 fouryears.
Speaking at the launch in Grimsby today, 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 Hornsea 4 - 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 Gherkin, but the next generation, up to 15MW “will not be far off 1000ft from blade tip to sea level,” he added. “They are much bigger, more efficient and generate more power.”
Ørsted also unveiled its first “service operation vessel,” Edda Passat, purpose-built in Spain, to serve the new generation of wind farms, further offshore.
Sporting everything 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 ingenious assortment of ways to get technicians and equipment onto turbines even in bad weather and carries a warehouse of spare parts.
Deputy operations manager Matthew Lord said they were “almost like the AA or the RAC.”
“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 the parts to be sent to them 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, is revelling in 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 they can work far more efficiently and complete repairs without having to return to port: “On other windfarms which don’t have SOVs if you need an extra part you would have to sail back and get it, whereas here you just radio through and within half an hour it is there,” she added.
A second vessel, Edda Mistral will arrive in Grimsby in September, and will be used during the construction of Hornsea 1.