Ten years after completing the first Burbo Bank project, Danish utility Dong Energy officially switched on the 258MW Burbo Bank Extension site off the coast of Liverpool on 17 May.
It marks a "step-change" in the market, according to Dong's group CEO Henrik Poulsen, speaking at the inauguration event at Anfield Stadium in Liverpool, from where you can just about see the 195-metre high turbines, installed 7km from the coast.
It is the first project to utilise the MHI Vestas V164-8.00MW turbine in a commercial capacity, much like the initial 90MW Burbo Bank project, which, Dong was keen to point out, was the first to use Siemens' 3.6MW turbines.
It is also among the first UK offshore projects to use major components produced locally. Some of the 32 turbines' blades were designed and made at MHI Vestas' plant on the Isle of Wight, southern England, while the EEW and Bladt Industries' UK-joint venture Offshore Structures Britain (OSB) fabricated a share of the project's transition pieces at its facility in Teeside, north-east England.
"Burbo Bank Extension becomes Dong Energy's ninth operational wind farm in the UK. It demonstrates our strong commitment to this country's energy sector (and) industrial strategy. An increasingly strong local offshore wind supply chain is (placing) UK suppliers in a good place to compete both at home and internationally," Poulsen said.
"This is truly about providing skill-building and job creation all around the UK. The offshore wind industry has made enormous progress in a relatively short space of time.
"By embracing innovation and deploying more powerful turbines, we have been able to reduce costs and make this a highly competitive form of low-carbon generation," he added.
UK supply chain
Dong's country mananger, Benj Sykes, was equally excited by the UK supply chain's potential that is now beginning to take shape.
"In terms of supply chain and local jobs, and in terms of a lower costs trajectory for this sector, it's very exciting," Sykes said. "We're really seeing the UK supply chain starting to flourish.
"I think we will see this as a stride forward. It is an important milestone, but it is on a journey that still has some milestones ahead.
"What we have seen in recent months is the benefits being harvested from commitments that we and the government have made to keep momentum in the industry to enable a confidence in the supply chain, and in the technology development that has enabled us to take these measured risks," Sykes added.
"The exciting thing for me is that this is the first time at an inauguration that I've been able to talk about exports. This is something that we have always talked about; UK content of UK wind farms, but we need to start talking about the value of this industry to the UK economy as a whole. We have examples where we cannot get UK suppliers to supply UK wind farms because they are exporting.
"We need to continue to drive a UK supply chain through having visibility in the future. There was previously a plan to continue to deploy out certain volumes in the 2020s. There is no reason to hold back on that. Indeed, as costs have come down, we should be ambitious to make the most of those cost reductions," said Sykes.
Turbine supplier, Danish-Japanese joint venture MHI Vestas, said it was also looking to start exporting from its UK facility. "We will utilise the existing capabilities fully and in the near future we will also start to export out of the UK. When the market grows and the demand gets bigger we will also extend the facilities," said CEO Jens Tommerup.
FROM PLAN TO POWER – BURBO BANK EXTENSION TIMELINE AND MILESTONES
Inauguration of Dong Energy's 90MW Burbo Bank project, sited on the Burbo Flats near Liverpool in the Irish Sea. Power is supplied by 25 Siemens SWT-3.6-107 units
The Crown Estate announces that operators can apply for extensions to existing projects. Dong identifies Burbo Bank as a potential site
The Crown Estate awards Dong an agreement for lease for an area of 40 square kilometres adjacent to the original project
Dong announces the MHI-Vestas V164-8MW turbine will power the project and makes a preliminary order for 32 units. It is the first order for the new machine
The Burbo Bank Extension project receives contract for difference (CfD) from the UK government with a strike price of £150/MWh (2012 prices) over 15 years
MHI Vestas starts construction of a second V164 prototpe
Dong confirms order for MHI Vestas turbines
Project is fully consented
Dong makes final investment decision; V164 turbine awarded provisional type certification from DNV GL
Dong chooses Bladt Industries and EEW to manufacture the foundations and transition pieces
UK-based VolkaInfra awarded the contract to install onshore cables
V164 turbine awarded full type certification; Jan De Nul awarded contract to install export and inter-array cables; Dong subsidiary A2Sea confirmed as turbine-installation supplier
Project reaches a government-mandated milestone of 10% of the total predicted expenditure
Van Oord is contracted to install the monopile foundations in the Irish Sea
Dong sells 50% of its stake to Danish pension fund PKA and Kirkbi, owner of the Lego Group, for £660 million
Offshore construction work starts
The first batch of 80-metre rotor blades are shipped from MHI Vestas' blade facility on the Isle of Wight to the pre-assembly site in Belfast, Northern Ireland
The turbines start shipping from Denmark to Belfast, the load-out port for the site
First turbine is installed
Project starts generating power
Project is fully commissioned