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Environment

The World's Largest Offshore Wind Farm Just Opened in the Irish Sea


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The Irish Sea is officially now home to the world’s largest offshore wind farm, and it covers the area of about 20,000 football pitches. 

Dubbed the Walney Extension, the wind farm covers about 55 square miles (145 square kilometres) and can generate enough power for 600,000 homes, according to the BBC

The £1 billion Walney wind farm — which lies about 12 miles (19 kilometres) off Barrow-in-Furness, on the Cumbrian coast — already had 102 turbines. But a further 87 have now been added this year, hence, the Walney Extension. 

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And it’s quite impressive. Each of the 189 turbines is 623 feet (190 metres) high — almost twice the height of London’s Big Ben clocktower. Just one rotation can power a home for over a day, according to Danish energy firm Orsted. 

“The north west region plays an important role in our UK offshore wind operations and our aim is to make a lasting and positive impact here,” said Matthew Wright, the UK managing director of Orsted.

“It’s another benchmark in terms of the scale,” added Wright. “This — bigger turbines, with fewer positions, and a bit further out — is really the shape of projects going forward.” 

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The previous biggest was the London Array, in the Thames Estuary, which was finished five years ago. 

But while Walney Extension has less than half the number of turbines, it can create more power than London Array — indicating that wind power technology has come on leaps and bounds in recent years. 

And it looks like, with its capacity of 659 megawatts, Walney Extension won’t hold onto the top spot for long, reported the Guardian

In 2020, ScottishPower’s East Anglia One is set to open — with the higher capacity of 714 megawatts. 

Meanwhile, Orsted is also plotting Hornsea One and Two (1,200 megawatts and 1,800 megawatts, respectively), which will open off the Yorkshire coast. 

Orsted has also pledged a Community Benefit Fund worth up to £600,000 for every one of the wind farm’s expected 25-year lifespan, according to the BBC

The fund will be used to support community and environmental projects along the coast of Cumbria and Lancashire. 

The UK is the world’s leader for offshore wind installations and, according to energy minister Claire Perry, “record-breaking engineering landmarks like this help us consolidate our global leadership position, break records for generating renewable energy, and create thousands of high-quality jobs.” 

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In total, including on- and off-shore wind farms, wind power generates about 15% of the UK’s annual electricity, according to FullFact.org.

But the amount of electricity wind can generates rises and falls a lot depending on the weather. 

For example, according to live data for Sept. 6 2018, from Elexon, the National Grid, and Sheffield Solar, wind power is generating about 5.9% of the UK’s total electricity.

Meanwhile, according to the site, solar power provides about 11.2%; gas about 45%; nuclear about 21%; and coal about 6.3%.