The world’s biggest offshore wind farm planned off the Yorkshire coast

PUBLISHED: 15:39 02 January 2016 | UPDATED: 13:17 19 January 2016

An arial shot of Westermost Rough wind farm built by DONG Energy 10 km off Withernsea Photo Paul Langrock

An arial shot of Westermost Rough wind farm built by DONG Energy 10 km off Withernsea Photo Paul Langrock

Construction is expected to begin on Hornsea Project One in the New Year

There will be 165 or more turbines standing 200metres tall 75 miles (120km) off the Yorkshire coast Photo Paul LangrockThere will be 165 or more turbines standing 200metres tall 75 miles (120km) off the Yorkshire coast Photo Paul Langrock

Wind farms are often criticised for spoiling the landscape but you’ll need superhero vision – or to be a mariner way out in the North Sea – for the vast Hornsea Project One to spoil your view. Yes, there will be 165 or more turbines standing 200metres tall but these steel giants will be 75 miles (120km) off the Yorkshire coast. ‘When built, Hornsea Project One will be the largest offshore wind farm in the world, almost double the capacity of the current record holder London Array,’ says Duncan Clark, programme director for Hornsea Project One at DONG Energy, the Danish company controlling the undertaking.

Samuel Leupold, vice president in charge of wind power activities at the company, summarises the scale of the engineering challenge like this: ‘The size and location of Hornsea Project One makes it the world’s first offshore wind farm with a capacity of more than one gigawatt (1GW) located far from shore. While the project is huge in size, it can be realised with technology which DONG Energy masters; no one has ever built offshore wind to that scale so far from the coast.

‘The North Sea is well known for its challenging conditions and weather, but the Hornsea Zone provides us with an exciting development opportunity with the size of the project and its high generation potential,’ says Mr Clark. ‘A very important challenge will be keeping workers safe when transferring from shore to site, and between vessels and structures when offshore. Demanding wave and wind conditions present a risk of slow progress in construction and this means we need to choose very capable vessels, equipment and construction methods that can work in a wide range of sea and wind conditions.’ It is not just what the company describes as ‘excellent wind conditions’ that make the distant Hornsea Zone attractive. Unexpectedly to the layman, perhaps, the sea there is only between 20m and 40m deep.

In April 2014 the project secured a Contract for Difference from the UK Government which means it will receive a fixed price per MWh of electricity produced for the first 15 years of operation (after which it gets the market price) and the Secretary of State granted development consent in December that year. The company has yet to announce its final investment decision but given that in February 2015 DONG Energy decided to exercise an option to take full control of the project from former partners SMart Wind, that announcement is keenly anticipated not least for the economic benefits it could bring to the region. ‘We will be working with the Local Enterprise Partnership to develop an employment and skills plan, aimed at highlighting job and supply chain opportunities through the construction, operation and maintenance of Hornsea Project One,’ says Mr Clark. ‘We’ll also host events in the region for businesses interested in providing supplies and services for the wind farm. We’ve already confirmed that Siemens is preferred supplier for the 7MW turbines that we will be using for Hornsea Project One, and the new Siemens factory in Hull will support the project.’ A possible timetable for the work would see onshore construction beginning in 2016 and finishing in 2019, with the offshore element underway by 2018 and completed three years later. And that is just the first of a potential three such wind farms in the Hornsea Zone, with the capacity of the other two a further 3GW.

A map impression of the Hornsea One Project ZoneA map impression of the Hornsea One Project Zone

Even though most of us will never see what is happening 75 miles east of Mappleton and Aldbrough we may be interested in it altruistically and economically. Should the 1.2GW site go ahead it could save an estimated 800,000 tonnes of CO2 a year, and by its very scale help drive down the cost of other future offshore wind farms around the world. Closer to home we can hope Hornsea One brings both regional and individual economic benefits, as Duncan Clark concludes: ‘This is an ambitious and pioneering project that presents a great opportunity to reduce the cost of electricity from offshore wind, and will provide a positive boost to the Humber region.’

Hornsea in figures

165 plus turbines planned

Wind farm zone of 157 square miles

1.2GW of electricity, sufficient to power 800,000 UK homes

Distance shore to wind farm 75 miles

DONG Energy currently has two offshore wind farms (Lincs and Westermost Rough) in operation on the East Coast, meeting the electricity needs of over 340,000 homes. Two further projects (Race Bank and Hornsea Project One) are under construction or in development and once they are operational, DONG Energy offshore wind farms in the region will meet the electricity needs of over 1.5 million homes.

The company has also acquired the lease for the rest of the Hornsea offshore wind development zone and if built, Hornsea Project Two and Hornsea Project Three could deliver a further 3 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind power plus additional investment into the Humber region beyond 2019. Its involvement in the Humber also supports a number of wider developments such as the construction of the Siemens wind turbine factory in Hull, making the region a major hub for the offshore wind industry.

Latest from the Yorkshire Life