If you have heard of Dogger Bank, a large sandbank around 130km off the North East coast of England, it is likely to be as part of the shipping forecast on Radio 4.
But soon, it will be home to the world’s largest offshore wind farm, capable of producing 3.6GW of electricity, enough to power five million homes or about five per cent of total UK demand.
“Dogger Bank has opened up new horizons for how large an offshore wind
farm can be”, says Alex Grant, UK Country Manager at Equinor, which will
operate the £9bn wind farm over its lifetime of up to 35 years.
The project, a 50:50 joint venture between Equinor and SSE Renewables,
is being built in three equal phases, with Italy’s Eni taking a 20 percent
stake in the first two phases.
When the first 13MW turbines start to turn in 2023, a single sweep of
their 220-metre rotors will produce enough electricity to power the
average UK home for two days. The project will be the first to use t
hese turbines from GE, the most powerful turbines currently in operation,
a sign of just how far offshore wind has come over the past decade,
confounding the expectations of even its most ardent proponents.
Five to six years ago, the cost of offshore wind was £150/MWh. Now it is well below the wholesale price
Megan Smith, head of offshore wind advisory
“Five to six years ago, the cost of offshore wind was £150/MWh. Now it is well below the wholesale price“, says Megan Smith, Head of Offshore Wind Advisory at the Carbon Trust, which runs the Offshore Wind Accelerator, an initiative to cut costs in the sector. “One of the main drivers in cost reduction is the increase in the size of the turbines.“
Turbine height vs capacity
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Source: Offshore Wind Sector Deal, GOV.UK, 2020
Dogger Bank won contracts at record-low prices in 2019, meaning when it generates electricity from 2023, it will be essentially subsidy-free.
Because of its long distance from shore, the project will be the first UK offshore wind farm to use High Voltage DC (HVDC) cables to transport the power back inland. Too much power would be lost if AC cables were used.
The 1,700km2 project, covering an area larger than Greater London, is set to make a significant contribution to the UK economy – the project’s installation base for phases A and B will be at Able Seaton Port in Hartlepool, where 120 jobs will be created and more than 200 people will eventually operate the wind farm.
An operations and maintenance base will be built at the Port of Tyne, one of only
two deep water ports in the North East of England.
Dogger Bank fits the Port of Tyne’s strategy to develop a 2050 Maritime Innovation
Hub, focused on technology such as clean energy, autonomous systems, artificial
intelligence, smart sensors, block-chain and big data analytics. “We want to create a
clean energy cluster for the region,” says the Port of Tyne Authority’s CEO Matt
The port is also building a 200-acre clean energy park dedicated to renewable
energy companies. “There is a real swell of excitement. It’s clear that this will bring
jobs to an area of high unemployment,” he adds. “Having the biggest wind farm in
the world off the coast here creates a real opportunity to develop the whole
Having the biggest wind farm in the world off the coast here creates a real opportunity to develop the whole economy
Matt Beeton, Port of Tyne Authority's CEO
Cable ducting on the onshore construction site for Dogger Bank A and B. Image Source: Dogger Bank Wind Farm by SSE Renewables and Equinor
When Equinor got involved in Dogger Bank a decade ago, the UK’s entire offshore wind capacity was 1.3GW1, around the same as one phase of this project. “Bear in mind that our initial business case was for 2000 turbines. With the speed of development increasing all the time, we’ll end up with the same capacity using just 15 per cent of the original 2000 turbines,” Equinor’s Grant said. “This shows how far the industry has come but also how we had to adapt our plan based on anticipated future technologies rather than those that existed at the time.”
“Dogger Bank is a huge step forward in both our ambitions to become a global offshore wind major and increase our renewables capacity from 0.6GW, as it is today, to 12-16GW by 2030.” Grant adds.
Our initial business case was for 2000 turbines. With the speed of development increasing all the time, we’ll end up with the same capacity using just 15 per cent of the original 2000 turbines
Alex Grant, UK Country Manager, Equinor
That ambition will be achieved by building up regional clusters, like in the North Sea. The region is the epicentre of offshore wind because it is shallow enough to allow turbines to be fixed to the seabed. But many other countries with plentiful wind resources, such as France, South Korea and Japan, have much deeper coastlines, making them unsuitable for bottom-fixed turbines. Floating turbines will enable these areas to generate renewable power and meet their emissions targets.
"Floating wind also gives companies such as Equinor, which was the first to build a floating turbine platform with its Hywind concept, the opportunity to leverage their existing expertise in developing a new sector. “We have decades of experience in offshore energy, and it’s this that has enabled us to become the leading developer in floating offshore wind. Taking our existing strengths in oil and gas and our robust portfolio in fixed-bottom offshore wind, we have a unique advantage as developing floating offshore wind requires many of the same skills. It’s our people that are really driving the energy transition.” says Grant.
Offshore wind is the energy of the future and the North Sea will continue to be the
sector’s spiritual home for years to come. But as floating wind technology catches
up with bottom-fixed turbines, the industry will move into deeper waters and further
Taking our existing strengths in oil and gas and our robust portfolio in fixed-bottom offshore wind, we have a unique advantage as developing floating offshore wind requires many of the same skills
Alex Grant, UK Country Manager, Equinor
3D visualization of a floating turbine. Source: Equinor ASA