The government’s announcement of an offshore wind sector deal is a truly significant moment. It marks the coming of age of offshore wind as both a major part of the UK’s energy transformation and an industrial powerhouse driving economic growth. It’s hugely positive news for the UK, and for all our futures.
The deal puts UK offshore wind right at the forefront of the global shift to clean growth and is something we can take immense pride in as a country. Offshore wind is now firmly part of our modern industrial strategy and is a success story reminding us of the great things we’re capable of achieving.
From a standing start, and in a short space of time, offshore wind is now cost competitive with conventional forms of energy generation. It was only in the year 2000 that the UK’s first offshore wind farm was built, consisting of just two turbines. Yet last year, we opened the world’s biggest offshore wind farm, Walney Extension, with 87 turbines and 164 times more power than that first project.
Not only did Walney Extension break records in terms of size, it also underlined the ripple effects that offshore wind can have in local economies. We worked with key suppliers from across the UK during construction, supporting the growth of offshore wind clusters around the country. More than 50 local companies, from Carlisle to Lancaster, were involved.
Such is the pace of development that a couple of weeks ago, first power was achieved at our Hornsea One project off the Yorkshire Coast which, when complete next year, will claim the title of world’s largest offshore wind farm. Consisting of 174 turbines, the project covers an area five times the size of Hull and is located 120 kilometres out at sea.
The size and scale of these new projects has played an important role in reducing the cost of building them, making offshore wind a truly cost-effective option for our energy mix. Crucially, the industry is also generating massive investment and job opportunities for towns and cities across the North of England.
The Humber region is perhaps where the multiple benefits of offshore wind have been felt most. We’re very fortunate that the North Sea is among the best places in the world to build offshore wind, with its high wind speeds and shallow water depths which are ideal for the installation of offshore wind turbines. This puts the Humber in a great position to spearhead this new industry.
Nearly £1 billion has already been invested in the Humber by Ørsted alone, and the region is becoming the envy of the world when it comes to renewable energy. Delegations from Europe, the US and Asia have visited in recent months, just to get a glimpse of what offshore wind is doing for the local economy and how it’s transforming coastal towns.
Our new East Coast Hub on the Grimsby Docks will be the largest operations base for offshore wind in the UK, with 400 people working at the hub by 2022. Meanwhile in Hull, the Siemens Gamesa blade factory already employs over 1,000 people making the giant turbine blades that are now powering our world-leading projects, like Hornsea One. It’s easy to see why people from all corners of the globe want to visit the region to see how offshore wind has developed.
By setting ambitious targets and securing a long-term partnership between the government and the industry, the sector deal paves the way for further opportunities as offshore wind becomes the backbone of our low-carbon energy system in the UK.
By 2030, offshore wind can provide a third of the UK’s electricity needs while employing 27,000 people across the country. Those are big numbers, and I can’t wait for this great story to continue.