Last year was a busy one for UK offshore wind, with much progress made and a number of milestones reached — not least, the installation in December of the UK’s 1,000th offshore turbine. It highlighted the UK’s position at the top of the global league table, with more than 3GW of installed capacity.
There has been no let-up in activity since. From planning and permitting, contracting and construction, to commissioning and completion, early 2013 has been busy for many. Developers, authorities, contractors, vessels, ports and suppliers have all been active. More than half of the project activity recorded by WPO Intelligence in the first quarter was UK-related.
Another landmark was reached on 7 March, when London Array 1 became the world’s largest operational offshore wind farm. The 507MW of capacity provided by four fifths of the 175 Siemens 3.6MW turbines eclipsed Greater Gabbard’s 504MW. The 630MW project was then completed in April.
Construction continued at a number of other offshore sites in the early part of the year. At the 270MW Lincs development, three quarters of the 75 Siemens 3.6MW turbines were in place by early February. By the end of March, installation was nearing completion. And turbine installation got under way in January at EDF’s Teesside development off Redcar. By April, almost half of the 27 Siemens 2.3MW turbines were in place and the 62MW project was set for completion in Q2.
At Dong Energy’s 12MW Gunfleet Sands 3 demonstration project, two Siemens 6MW turbines were installed in January and GL Renewables Certification gave the green light in March for offshore testing to commence. The first offshore tests of the Siemens 6MW turbines will pave the way for their installation at future large-scale projects.
Another demonstration project took a step forward in March, when Scottish Enterprise invited expressions of interest in the Hunterston Test Centre for Offshore Wind. Planned for a site at the Port of Hunterston, North Ayrshire, it would feature three berths. Scottish Enterprise is seeking a turbine manufacturer to lease its plot from July 2015. The other two berths will be occupied by Siemens and Mitsubishi.
Round 3 kick-off
At Dogger Bank in the North Sea, the Brave Tern was deployed in February to install the first of two bucket foundations. It marked the start of construction work at the Round 3 zone. The foundations will support two meteorological masts that will monitor wave and wind conditions off the North Yorkshire coast. The Dogger Bank zone is being developed by Forewind, which comprises RWE, SSE, Statkraft and Statoil.
In the Irish Sea, Combi Lift’s EIT Palmina docked in Belfast in early February, laden with the first batch of foundations for the West of Duddon Sands project. Offshore construction at the 389MW development is due to start this summer.
Meanwhile, the first turbine components for the 576MW Gwynt y Môr project arrived in Mostyn in January, on the SeaTruck Pace. Under construction in Liverpool Bay, this is a joint venture between German utility RWE Innogy, German municipal utility Stadtwerke München and turbine maker Siemens. Using the Polar Prince vessel, Reef Subsea started laying the project’s inter-array cables in March. The 33kv cables will connect the 160 turbines to the two offshore substations, with installation due to continue into 2014.
A number of contract awards were also made early this year. Gwynt y Môr Offshore Wind Farm awarded Seaway Heavy Lifting a contract to install the last 80 of the 160 foundations at the 576MW project off the north Wales coast. Having completed the installation of the first 80 monopiles in December 2012, the Stanislav Yudin is due to return to the site in May. It will work alongside RWE’s Friedrich Ernestine, which has been on site through the winter, undertaking drilling operations, grouting work and transition pieces installation.
Sif Group will supply most of the 73 monopiles and transition pieces for E.on’s Humber Gateway project. The Dutch manufacturer was due to begin the components’ production in the spring. The remaining 16 foundations will be supplied by TAG Energy Solutions. The 219MW project is under development in the North Sea, eight kilometres off the Yorkshire coast.
Waiting for permits
Permitting authorities were also busy in the UK in early 2013. E.on temporarily withdrew its application for the Rampion project in January, one month after it first submitted it, after it became apparent that some local authorities had not been fully consulted. With consultation completed, no notable changes were made to the project plans and the application was resubmitted in March. The developer is planning an up to 700MW wind farm 17 kilometres offshore in the English Channel. The UK Planning Inspectorate accepted the application for examination in March.
The Planning Inspectorate also completed its examination of RWE’s proposals for the 1.2GW Triton Knoll project in January. The findings, conclusions and a recommendation were sent to the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) in April. Decc will announce its decision by mid-July.
In Scotland, Mainstream Renewable Power submitted an application for the onshore transmission link for its planned Neart na Gaoithe offshore wind farm. It is seeking permission from East Lothian Council for a 12.3-kilometre cable and a new substation at the Crystal Rig II onshore wind farm. The 450MW project is planned for a site in the outer Firth of Forth, off Scotland’s east coast.
Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm Ltd received consent in late March from the Scottish government for the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre project. It still has an application pending with Aberdeenshire Council relating to a cable route and substation that would form part of the onshore connection for the 11-turbine demo project, planned for Aberdeen Bay.
In Northern Ireland, the Utility Regulator published a consultation in March on the methodology to be used to connect offshore projects to the onshore grid. In October 2012, First Flight Wind was granted the rights to develop a 600MW wind farm off the coast of County Down. It would become Northern Ireland’s first offshore wind farm. The consortium behind it comprises Northern Irish wind-farm developer B9 Energy, Danish utility Dong Energy and UK renewable-energy developer RES.
But environmental considerations affected the plans for two offshore wind farms. In March, it was announced that a basking-shark tracking project off the west coast of Scotland would be extended for another year. This could further impact ScottishPower Renewables’ plans for Argyll Array. The developer had already put its plans for the 1.5GW project off Tiree on ice for a year in December 2012, due to a need for further consideration of the environmental impact. Endangered basking sharks gather around the islands of Coll, Tiree and Canna every summer and concerns have been raised that the wind farm could affect their habitat.
In March, RWE npower renewables announced further revisions to its project plans for Atlantic Array. The area of the wind farm, planned for a site in the Bristol Channel, was further reduced, from 238 to 200 square kilometres. The maximum number of turbines was also cut, from 278 to 240, and the project’s maximum capacity was lowered to 1.2GW — 20% less than the initially planned 1.5GW.
The project plans had previously been scaled back in May 2012. The latest changes followed analysis of the consultation undertaken last year, and the results of environmental and engineering studies. RWE now aims to submit a consent application to the Planning Inspectorate in June.