The U.K. recently launched the third auction in five years aimed at bolstering the share of green energy sources in its electricity supply. The government was offering Contracts for differences to providers of renewable energy, part of the U.K.’s plan to be carbon-neutral by 2050.
The winning bidders were the prospective operators of a new generation of offshore wind farms that will match nuclear power plants in their generating capacity, powering not thousands, but millions of homes, all developed without subsidies. Though the projects are not scheduled to come online until 2023, they point to a wholesale reinvention of much of today’s energy sector, as companies that cut their teeth in the world of offshore oil and gas morph into specialists in offshore wind electricity. The transformation has huge consequences for tens of thousands of employees and investors.
The auction winners were three gigantic sites on the Dogger Bank—a large sandbank about the size of New Jersey 60 miles off the east coast of England—which will house wind farms capable of generating 1,200 megawatts of electricity, each one pumping out as much as the giant nuclear reactors and coal-fired stations that have provided baseload (i.e. constant, 24/7) power to previous generations of consumers.
To generate that, the joint operators of two of the three sites will be using General Electric’s new 12-megawatt Haliade-X turbines. These monsters—100 of which will be needed for each farm—are the biggest wind turbines ever built, with a tower taller than any building in London’s Canary Wharf financial district, sweeping an area the size of seven football fields with blades 107 meters (351 feet) long.