Courtesy of London Array
Wind farm's first phase is set to begin operating in spring 2013.


Delays at the Greater Gabbard project mean that the wind farm off the English coast will be the world’s largest offshore wind farm only briefly, till the larger London Array project reaches construction completion.

Developed by a team led by Dong Energy A/S, Copenhagen, Denmark, London Array’s current first phase will have a 630-MW capacity when it becomes fully operational next spring. 

Since London Array’s first 268-tonne monopile went into the Thames Estuary some 13 months ago, nearly three-quarters of the 175 turbine foundations have been placed, says a spokeswoman for the owner, London Array Ltd.

Including the Greater Gabbard and London Array projects, 235 offshore turbines totaling 866 MW connected to national grids in Europe last year, according to data from the European Wind Energy Association, Brussels.

Nine offshore projects were under construction by the year’s end; together, they rated at 2,375 MW.  Another nine entered their preparatory phase and are expected to add another 2,910 MW.

The European market potential is so promising that one of London Array's contractors is getting deeper into the business by diversifying into foundation production.

Bilfinger Berger A.G. Mannheim, announced on April 10 that it is creating a new, Poland-based company to produce for North Sea waters jacket-type turbine foundations that can be placed deeper than 30 meters, which is seen as being roughly the limit for monopiles.

The Poland plant, which is 62.5% owned by the contractor, will have an initial capacity of 80 jackets a year, starting in 2014, says Moritz Horn, head of Bilfinger Berger’s offshore civil section, based in Hamburg.

Demand from northern Europe alone for such foundation structures will reach 400 to 500 a year, starting from 2016 and into the foreseeable future, adds Horn. Furthermore, current production capacity is under 200 units, he estimates.

German contractor Hochtief A.G., Essen, is also now investing in offshore wind but on the development side.

The company and its equal partner, St. Gallen, Switzerland-based Ventizz Capital Partners, this February launched Hochtief Offshore Development Solutions Sarl. The joint venture aims to develop and engineer projects up to the construction phase and sell them, derisked, to new investors.

Ten countries are investing in offshore wind farms, though nearly 90% of the capacity installed last year was in U.K. waters.