Britain’s offshore wind sector is defying its critics as the latest figures show the cost of renewable energy is plummeting – and Merseyside is in pole position to reap the benefits.
In the last few weeks it has been revealed that the cost of renewable energy had fallen to £57.50 per megawatt-hour, far exceeding Government expectations and well below the price of £92.50 awarded in 2016 to the Hinkley nuclear power station.
This has been hailed as a “breakthrough moment for offshore wind” by Matthew Wright, managing director of Mersey Maritime member Ørsted in the UK (formerly known as DONG Energy) which operates a huge wind farm in Liverpool Bay.
Its recently completed Burbo Bank extension, 7km off the coast, can generate enough electricity to power 230,000 homes utilising the most powerful commercial turbines in the world. This rises to 310,000 homes when the output of the original Burbo Bank wind farm is added.
At 195m high, each turbine is taller than London’s Gherkin skyscraper and the 80m blades each weigh 35 tonnes. Just one turbine can generate more power than the world’s first commercial wind farm, Vindeby, which opened more than two decades ago.
Mr Wright added: “Successive governments deserve great credit for providing the certainty for continued investment in offshore wind, enabling it to become the thriving renewable industry it is today.
“Costs are falling rapidly, long-term and highly-skilled jobs are being created across the North of England and the UK supply chain is going from strength to strength.
“We’re now really seeing the benefits of this commitment to offshore wind and there is still so much more to come. Indeed, it has the potential to play a key part in the realisation of the UK’s industrial strategy.”
To support its Liverpool Bay wind farms, Ørsted has this year opened an operations centre right on the Mersey at Kings Wharf in Wirral.
In the last few weeks Mr Wright has welcomed a delegation of politicians from across the Liverpool city region to tour the centre. They included Wirral Council leader Phil Davies, Cllr Anne McLachlan, Mayor of Wirral and Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson.
They learned how Osted’s investment in the North West totals £5.4bn since 2005 with around 45 people employed at the Kings Wharf facility.
The company has committed to a Burbo Bank Extension Community Fund worth approximately £225,000 each year for the lifetime of the project. The fund benefits local community groups and organisations in the North West, for example the New Brighton Mermaid Trail.
And it has also partnered with the education charity Teach First to address educational inequalities in the North, supporting Teach First on improving teacher attraction and retention, and pupil progression in Merseyside.
Billions of pounds
“We’ve been operating out of the North West for over 10 years now and have invested billions of pounds in the area,” Mr Wright said. “However, our presence in the community extends much wider than operating our business from here.
“It was great to meet the people in the Liverpool area working to make things happen, and have the opportunity to tell them about our activities here and discuss ways to work together. We’re proud to be part of this great region’s community and economy.”
The building at Kings Wharf is used for the storage of materials and equipment required for the ongoing maintenance of the wind farms, as well as office facilities for staff. A new ladder on the quay wall also enables boats to “push on” directly, allowing easy access for technicians to board.
Cllr Davies added: “Wirral has a hard-fought and deserved reputation as a centre of excellence for clean energy manufacturing and innovation. This latest developments show the growing confidence global businesses have in our borough’s ability to deliver.
“Wirral, as part of the city region, has gained the Centre for Offshore Renewable Engineering designation, the only such designation on the west coast of England, yet further proof of our position at the centre of this growing industry.”
Consultant at YBNews
Mobile: 07931 964948