As part of the goal to get 15.4 percent of Britain’s electricity from
renewable sources by 2015, the government has approved construction of
the London Array, a wind farm to be positioned 20 kilometers off the
coast of southeast England in the Thames Estuary. The region (Kent and
Essex counties) has the highest demand for electricity in the U.K.,
with an estimated 750,000 homes consuming power every year. If
successful, the wind farm will be one of the largest offshore wind
farms in the world, with about 300 turbines generating enough energy to
power the entire area.
Preliminary studies and research regarding the wind farm and its placement began in 2001, with a number of environmental studies assessing the potential impact the farm would have on the area. After careful consideration of the risks and benefits, permission was granted for the project to move forward in May 2009.
Since then, work has continued, funded primarily by the project’s three shareholders — E.On, DONG Energy and Masdar. It is estimated the project will cost £2 billion over the course of its construction, and it is expected that the construction phases will generate hundreds of new jobs for residents of the Kent area, namely those living in coastal towns.
The recent assignment of contracts to companies MPI Offshore and A2SEA have led to the goal of beginning construction on phase one April of next year. It is estimated this phase should finish in 2012, with 175 turbines constructed for a joint capacity of 630 megawatts of power. The second phase, once approved, will complete the farm and bring the total capacity up to 1,000 megawatts, making it the world’s first gigawatt offshore wind farm.
The project’s success remains to be seen, but it is clear the U.K. is serious in pursuing alternative energy sources.