The developers had to adapt to finish the East Anglia ONE project during the coronavirus lockdown.
ScottishPower Renewables has started operating all 102 turbines at its East Anglia ONE offshore wind farm. The wind farm can provide the UK grid with 714 MW of clean energy, equivalent to the needs of 630,000 homes.
Based 43km off the coast of Suffolk, the power is transferred to an onshore substation in Burstall, near Ipswich.
The project, a joint venture between developer ScottishPower Renewables and Green Investment Group (GIG), was built using £2.5 billion of investment.
According to Scottish Power Renewables, roughly 20% of the installation work and around 50% of the turbine connection work was carried out during lockdown.
In order to do this, the developer and its project partners adapted their work processes – they used additional smaller vessels, introduced new welfare protocols and minimised crew changes. They also created crew ‘households’, where workers lived and worked together at all times.
Andrew Elmes, East Anglia ONE Senior Project Manager at turbine supplier Siemens Gamesa, said: “The team reacted superbly to the Covid-19 pandemic, preventing East Anglia ONE from being derailed by the unprecedented situation.
“Safety issues to be managed in a critical period included: complete vessel, accommodation, and crew reorganisations; quarantine events, social distancing, suspect cases and testing onsite.”
With work starting on the project in 2017, around 3,500 jobs were created during the construction process. Operations and maintenance work will require 100 long-term skilled jobs at the site’s base in Lowestoft.
Charlie Jordan, East Anglia ONE Project Director at ScottishPower Renewables, said that the final commissioning of East Anglia ONE comes at a crucial time as the UK takes it first steps towards a green economic recovery.
“Reaching this point was always going to be an extremely important moment for us – heralding the start of full production of green energy from a major site that will play a real part in the UK’s path to Net Zero.
“What has made it even more incredible is the determination and tenacity of our team, who have worked tirelessly to deliver this significant technical project amidst an unprecedented pandemic, which none of us could have planned for.
“This was also the first time we have worked with Green Investment Group, and I would like to thank them for their support.”
East Anglia ONE is the first wind farm in the larger East Anglia Array, a group of four wind farms in the area. The next wind farm, East Anglia TWO, has a proposed capacity of 900MW and is scheduled for completion in 2030.
ScottishPower Renewables has also applied to reduce the number of turbines at the East Anglia THREE wind farm from a maximum of 172 to a maximum of 121. This will allow the company to use larger turbines, with rotors up to 230 metres in diameter.
Edward Northam, Head of GIG Europe, said: “East Anglia ONE is a reminder that the UK continues to lead the world in the successful delivery of offshore wind projects, and I’m proud of the role that Green Investment Group has played, and continues to play, in supporting and funding the development of this market.
“We remain committed to accelerating the UK’s energy transition and believe offshore wind will be at the heart of the UK’s net zero energy system.”
A team led by Malte Jansen from Imperial College London has suggested that the price of offshore wind power will soon drop below the cost of power from traditional power sources.
In a study published in Nature Energy, the researchers claimed that more and more wind farms will be operating profitably without the need for subsidies.
Since subsidised renewable energy has pushed up the price of electricity, this should help reduce household electricity bills.