Hornsea 2, a wind farm off the coast of the UK, is now fully operational and ready to help power around 1.3 million U.K. homes. With 165 turbines covering an area of 462 square kilometers (roughly 178 square miles), it is officially the biggest offshore wind farm on the planet.
“The UK is one of the world leaders in offshore wind,” Patrick Harnett, program director for the Hornsea 2 wind farm, told BBC News. “This is very exciting after five years of work to have full commercial operations at the world's largest offshore wind farm.”
The new farm’s claim to fame as the world’s largest will be short-lived, however. The Dogger Bank wind farm, which is due to start coming on stream next year, will eventually be able to power a whopping 6 million homes – more than four times the number powered by Hornsea 2.
Hornsea 2 is located about 89 kilometers (55 miles) offshore, and at that distance, it can be hard to appreciate just how big these babies are. Each of the 165 turbines rises about 200 meters (656 feet) above the sea, with each of the three blades stretching 81 meters (266 feet) across – each one is about the height of the Washington Monument and the width of … also the Washington Monument, actually, except rotating.
The announcement marks the completion of a project which first started delivering energy back in December 2021. A single rotation of the blades can reportedly power one UK home for 24 hours. Since each revolution takes just six seconds, that scales up to more than 14,000 homes every day, for every turbine.
That’s good news for a few reasons – the most obvious being the reduction in fossil fuel reliance. Renewable energy sources have been projected to reduce carbon emissions over the next three decades by a factor of up to twenty, and wind power in particular has a significantly higher energy return on investment than, say, coal. For every unit of energy invested in wind power, something like 44 units are returned as electricity, while the same input into coal would only yield about nine units of power.
But Hornsea 2 is also good news for consumers. It has a capacity of more than 1.3 gigawatts, and as the world undergoes the current energy crisis – British energy bills are projected to soar by up to 80 percent next month – wind power stands as one of the cheapest forms of energy out there.
“The last time I checked it was roughly £450 per megawatt hour to buy electricity generated by gas,” Simon Evans from Carbon Brief, a website that follows renewable energy issues, told the BBC. “That's about nine times more expensive than the current cost to build new renewable capacity.”
Hornsea 2’s launch comes at an auspicious time, with Europe’s access to gas being squeezed by sanctions on Russia. While the UK is one of the luckier nations in the continent – more than 96 percent of the country’s gas supplies come from sources other than Russia – they are still vulnerable to the international gas market volatility, giving yet more reasons to wean themselves off the fossil fuel.
“Current global events highlight more than ever the importance of landmark renewable energy projects like Hornsea 2,” Duncan Clark, head of the U.K. region at Ørsted, the company which owns the farm, told CNBC. The new farm will “[help] the UK increase the security and resilience of its energy supply and drive down costs for consumers by reducing dependence on expensive fossil fuels.”