The world’s deepest non-floating wind farm, located off the coast of Scotland, finally switched on this week, providing enough power for 450,000 homes.
The Beatrice offshore wind farm, activated by Prince Charles in a ceremony Monday, uses 84 turbines to generate 588 megawatts of energy. That means it ranks as the fourth-largest offshore wind farm in the world.
Perhaps most impressive are the foundations, which enabled utility provider SSE to harness the power of these winds eight miles away from the coast of Caithness, which is the far northeastern tip of Scotland. The company confirmed to Inverse that at a total height of 288 meters (315 yards), and with the deepest foundation jackets in the world, Beatrice ranks as the world’s deepest non-floating wind farm.
As the more countries develop clean energy infrastructure and reduce carbon emissions, the wind farm feat off the coast of Scotland could encourage more wind installations in previously impossible locations.
Offshore Wind: How It Could Keep the Lights On
Wind energy could be one of the great sources of sustainable energy for the future, and the United Kingdom is one of its biggest proponents. It has the world’s largest amount of offshore wind installation capacity, ideal for the island nation, with 34 percent of total capacity.
On the whole, offshore wind is gradually making waves. Total capacity grew by 20 percent globally in 2018, reaching 23 gigawatts. That’s a fraction of total installed wind capacity, which stands at 591 gigawatts.
The ability to build in more geographic locations could unlock more sources of energy, particularly as prices fall to compete with fossil fuels. In fact, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found in October 2017 that ocean-based wind installations in the North Atlantic could meet all of humanity’s energy needs.
Last year, China accounted for 40 percent of all total new wind installations, leaving the United Kingdom on second place with 29 percent.
Offshore Wind: How Beatrice Changes the Game
Beatrice is an impressive feat of engineering. The £2.5 billion ($3 billion) project, which started its development around 10 years ago, is expected to save eight million metric tons of carbon per year, over its 25-year lifespan (1 metric ton is equal to 1.10231 U.S. ton).
The foundations push offshore wind to its limits. The piles in the ground measure 40 meters deep and weigh 50 tonnes, anchoring it to the ocean floor. The jacket that holds the turbine measures 81 meters tall and weighs 1,000 tonnes, pushing the turbine out of the sea depth of up to 56 meters. Each tower measures 88 meters tall and weighs 292 tonnes, the nacelle in the center 350 tonnes and the 75-meter blades weigh 26 tonnes. That creates a rotor diameter of 154 meters.
“We’re incredibly proud it’s been delivered on-time and under-budget, even when dealing with the challenges the North Sea and deep waters bring,” Jim Smith, managing director of SSE Renewables, said in a statement. “The UK has the biggest offshore wind industry in the world and this world-class offshore project paves the way for future development in Scotland and the UK to help decarbonize our economy while boosting jobs and growth.”
The deep water project pushes fixed base turbines to their edge. Experts note that these projects can only stand in water around 60 meters deep at most. That means many designers are exploring non-fixed floating wind farms, like the world’s first such project that went live in 2017 in Scotland.
Offshore wind prices have dropped 75 percent over the past four years, and industry experts have described it as similar to the earlier days of land-based wind and solar. Beatrice could be the first step in an ocean-connected fleet of turbines, harnessing the power of ocean winds.