Where Is the World’s Biggest Wind Turbine?

The Burbo Bank extension just off the Liverpudlian coast came online last month, with 32 8MW turbines generating double the amount of electricity as the original farm which was built ten years ago. Standing 195m tall, the turbines are the largest and most powerful in the world.

Bigger, better, cheaper

Built by Danish renewable energy company Dong Energy, the extension covers a total area of 40km2 and each of the 32 units is a whopping 53m taller than those typically employed offshore. Considerably bigger than both the London Eye and the Gherkin, the turbines boast blades that are lengthier than nine London buses parked end to end.

The Burbo Bank extension signals the first time that turbines of this capacity and size have been used for commercial purposes anywhere in the world. The man responsible for implementing them in the UK believes they are both a marker of the progress that has been made in the renewable sector – and a sign of things to come.

“This and other projects have been crucial for driving costs down for the whole industry,” said Benjamin Sykes, UK manager for Dong Energy. Speaking about the heightened capacity of the extension in comparison to the original Burbo Bank installation, Sykes said it “shows you something about the scale-up of the industry, the scale-up of the technology”. What’s more, he said that “there’s every reason to believe”that 13MW or even 15MW turbines will become operational in the foreseeable future.

Britain as world leaders

With air quality and emissions such hot topics on both the national and international stages right now, the launch of the site is perfectly timed to confirm the UK’s place as a world leader in wind energy. The extension is capable of generating a combined total of 5.3GW, which is enough energy to light 4.3 million homes across Britain.

Most existing offshore turbines are capable of producing around 3.6MW, with a select few reaching an optimal energy output of 7MW. However, there are already eight other projects under construction and 16 more that have been given the green light for planning, the majority of which are 8MW turbines as well.

What’s more, Dong Energy has made a concerted effort to keep the industry inside the UK. Though Britain is recognised as a leading exporter of clean energy, it’s often criticised for not sourcing locally manufactured parts. This time, however, half of the blades are produced on the Isle of Wight and the parts located on top of the base are made on Teesside.

A viable alternative going forward?

Wind farms haven’t always been a popular option in the UK. Their critics claim that they’re inefficient, costly and an eyesore, but despite these arguments, there is still significant public support for onshore farms.

Offshore, the industry has benefited from Britain’s strong maritime heritage, favourable legislation and significant funding from the government. In fact, offshore wind remains the only renewable sector supported by the incumbent Tory government and their monetary aid has helped the UK install a greater wind capacity than any other country in the world.

However, politicians have warned that costs must fall if the industry is to continue being subsidised. For his part, Sykes is bullish about the future of offshore wind, claiming that “he I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it comes in below Hinkley.”

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