Using Advanced Technology, World’s Largest Offshore Wind Farm Opens Off English Coast

The Walney Extension wind farm, whose 87 turbines are capable of powering nearly 600,000 homes, has officially begun operations in the Irish Sea off northern England.

With its larger, more efficient turbines, the Walney Extension project uses less than half of the turbines of the previous biggest offshore wind farm, the London Array, yet is capable of producing more electricity. “It’s another benchmark in terms of scale,” said Matthew Wright, the U.K. managing director of the Danish Energy company, Ørsted, the project’s developer. “This — bigger turbines, with fewer positions, and a bit further out — is really the shape of projects going forward.”

Walney Extension, located 12 miles off the Cumbrian coast, uses wind turbines as tall as 650 feet. But its claim to being the world’s largest offshore wind farm will not stand for long, as even larger wind farms — including planned wind arrays off the Yorkshire coast that could power close to 2 million homes — are now in the works.

The United Kingdom is the world’s biggest producer of offshore wind energy, providing nearly a tenth of the U.K.’s electricity. But that percentage is steadily rising, and Orsted officials said that the attractive economics of offshore wind mean that neither Brexit, nor events like this summer’s heat wave and “wind drought” in the U.K., are likely to dim the appeal of offshore wind power.