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World's largest offshore wind farm opens for business


February 10, 2012

With 102 turbines, the Walney offshore wind farm, which opened yesterday, has become with world's largest

With 102 turbines, the Walney offshore wind farm, which opened yesterday, has become with world's largest

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Walney wind farm off the coast of Cumbria in the UK yesterday became the world's largest offshore wind facility. One hundred and two turbines over 73 sq km (28 sq miles) provide a maximum output of 367.2 MW. It's claimed the facility will provide enough power for about 320,000 homes - half as many again as the total number in Cumbria.

The project's first phase, Walney 1, has been providing power since January 2011 from 51 137-meter-high (450-ft) turbines, each with a 107-m (350-ft) rotor diameter. The completed second phase, Walney 2, adds another 51 turbines of even greater size to the installation. These 150-m (492-ft) tall turbines have three 18-tonne (19.8-short ton) blades with a total diameter of 120 m (394 ft). Despite the differing dimensions, all turbines are Siemens-made 3.6 MW turbines. All told a single wind turbine weighs a hefty 550 tonnes (606 short tons). The Walney 2 installation was completed in an impressively tight six-month window.

The turbine specs appear well-suited to the UK's considerable wind assets, functioning at wind speeds between 4 and 25 m/s (9 and 56 mph), operating at a peak in winds of 14 m/s (31 mph), with mean wind speeds for the area thought to be just over 9 m/s (20 mph) at the critical altitude.

The above map shows the Walney wind farm's position in the Irish Sea. The distance of the turbines to the coast varies between 14.4 and 25.8 km (9 and 16 miles) - a significant distance that helps to reduce the visual impact of the scheme. The blue and red lines indicate the export cables for Walney 1 and 2 respectively.

The facility makes use of offshore substations, stepping up the voltage from 34 kV to 132 kV. This is good news for the environment as transmission at higher voltage minimizes losses, and so reduces the need for inefficient lower-voltage transmission to an onshore substation.

The facility has been built by a company called Walney (UK) Offshore Windfarms Limited, a joint enterprise with DONG Energy and SSE as the major stakeholders. DONG is also the major stakeholder in the even larger London Array wind farm. It is not clear when this 1000 MW wind farm will be complete, though phase 1 should be making a maximum capacity of 630 MW available before the end of the year. Walney, therefore, will not hold the top spot for long. DONG will surely try to improve upon the construction of the Walney facility, phase 2 of which (according to the UK's Guardian newspaper) DONG claims was the fastest wind farm construction of its type.

Sources: DONG, Guardian

About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life. All articles by James Holloway

How big are the subsidies? How much guaranteed-price energy are utilities forced to buy? There has been soooooo much theatre and fiction behind big wind projects that I find it hard to believe that anyone will be able to make it work in the near future without government fraud. Yes, oil and all other industries get subsidies (which is wrong) but they could exist without them; subsidies are not their core reason for being.

I would love to find out that the maintenance costs are properly accounted for and that the system is cheaper or comparable to the cost of producing the energy via conventional means... But I doubt I will find out anything of the kind.

Snake Oil Baron

Snake Oil, New technology that gets government support is not the problem. The question is in 20 years after all these massive wind turbines have been perfected and the maintenance issues addressed, will they still be on subsidies? The follow up question is, even if in twenty years wind is still not the cheapest form of power production (compared to other fossil fuel power) is it acceptable for a government to disregard fossil fuels due to environmental concerns? And the last question is, how are the subsidies applied? We have all seen subsidies that helped spur an industry forward (Computers and aircraft are prime examples) but we all have seen subsidies that created a bunch of fat-cats resting on their butt waiting on the government check..... A question I have is about birds. The turbines are miles off of the coast. Are they far enough so the impact on the bird population is negligible?

re; Dennis

The impact of wind turbines on the bird population is negligible.

The official numbers are a lie. They calculate this number by coming when the bird population is at it highest and then count and type all the predators and scavengers in the area. Using this they calculate how many birds that they would have consumed if they ate nothing but birds. They also count how many dead birds they can find in an area larger than the fallout zone around the wind turbines. They then add these numbers to come up with the \"average\" number of birds killed in a few day period. This number is then used to extrapolate the number of birds killed every year.

Bird strikes do damage to the wind turbine blades so the wind turbines have sophisticated sensors to detect and count bird strikes. This number, a true count, is several orders of magnitude lower.


I live in Gent, Belgium, near the harbour, and they have a string of giant windturbines. I visited one two years ago and asked about the birdies. The guy said that had been solved by first installing wind powered sound generators (ultra high or low, don't remember) long before he joined the company. The latest blades resonate to generate a "no go sound force field". It really works, you can see seagulls flying in front of the arc but never though.

Gildas Dubois

No report on the phase 3 Walney Wind farm that is being readied ?


I live directly across from this wind farm and the view is amazing. There was recently quite a bit of fog surrounding just the turbines - quite an unusual phenomenon!

Also the turbine is so far out to sea I doubt there are any birds out there. Even then, I would welcome a reduction in seagulls...


Fantastic. I am cheered up today with this news.

Bruce Hudson

wind is for free....

SO.... cheap electricity.... soon.... right?....


it is, after all, Taxpayers money that is greatly sponsoring these endeavors , correct?

Michiel Mitchell

How much energy is generated at the lowest, how is this balanced. Also if wind turbines can be taken out to sea, why not man made whole solar panel islands onto the ocean?

Dawar Saify
The true cost of production of power needs to wait just a bit as new systems are not optimized. For example these towers might be covered with solar cells or perhaps shrimp farms can be established using the towers as anchor and service points. In some areas wave or current generaters might also be attached and a very productive complex could come into function. Multi use is the path for energy production. One might even consider very large condominiums for retired communities as the base for these turbines. Imagine a sixty floor condo emerging from the sea with forty apartments on each floor producing energy, farming sea food and exporting energy to the land areas. Coat that building with solar cells and you would really be creating power. Shopping and the usual services could be provided for building clusters since these would be highly populated buildings. Talk about an ocean view! Jim Sadler

Re impact on birds, a recent UK study says not, especially if off-shore...article and link to report at

Brendan Dunphy

This is really a huge turbine but recently Siemens has built a 75-meter blade (150-meter rotor). Here you can see these huge blades: I think this is the world's largest wind turbine.

Sandru Mircea Ioan
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