Walney Extension, the largest wind farm in the world, has been inaugurated

Some of Walney Extension's wind turbines (Photo courtesy Walney Extension)
Some of Walney Extension’s wind turbines (Photo courtesy Walney Extension)

A few days ago, the largest offshore wind farm off the Ireland coast has been inaugurated. Called Walney Extension, it’s a project of Danish company Ørsted capable of generating up to 659 MWatts to supply electricity for over 590,000 homes. This wind farm broke the record of another British farm, the London Array, which can generate up to 630 MWatts.

Wind farms and classic wind turbines in general are sometimes at the center of controversy because of their environmental impact. Wind energy is among the sustainable ones but there were several cases in which birds or even bats got killed by these wind turbines’ blades. Despite this, wind farms are becoming a significant source of energy for the British with a prediction that it will exceed 10% of national demand in 2020 to further increase over the next decade.

Walney Extension is just the last wind farm off the coast of Great Britain, in this case in the Irish Sea about 19 kilometers from the coasts of Cumbria, a region of north-west England. In that area, in recent years, two wind farms called Walney 1 and Walney 2 were built, consisting of 51 wind turbines each capable of generating almost 184 MWatts each. The new wind farm can generate much more electricity thanks to its 87 wind turbines.

The choice made in Walney Extension’s project was to use larger wind turbines exploiting a smaller amount of positions a little more off coast. The wind turbines are of two different types built by two different companies: 40 MHI Vestas 8 MWatts 195 meters tall each and 47 Siemens Gamesa 7 MWatts 188 meters tall each. Another comparison can be made with the previous “champion” London Array, which uses 175 wind turbines.

The growth of wind farms is proven by the fact that there are already other projects at various stages of development that will set new records in the coming years. Starting in 2020, many Britons will be able to use the electricity produced by another Ørsted wind farm, Hornsea Project One, off the coast of Yorkshire, which will generate up to 1,200 MWatts. The Dutch operator TenneT proposed a wind farm for the Netherlands to a higher level to be built in the North Sea with 10,000 wind turbines that could generate up to 30 GWatt.

Basically, at least for the near future, offshore wind farms seem to be one of the big trends for sustainable energy generation. In these cases it’s always difficult to see more than a few years in the future because new progress could shift efforts towards other forms of production but in areas such as certain northern European seas with shallow water and strong winds the growth of wind farms will continue.

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