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The world’s largest operational offshore wind farm – the 659 MW Walney Extension – was officially opened on Thursday by renewable energy giant Ørsted – “operational” being the operative word, however, as the offshore wind industry continues to expand, and ever-larger offshore wind farms appear on the horizon.

The offshore wind industry is a mixture of battles at the moment between wind turbine manufacturers and offshore developers, each trying to one-up the other for most powerful wind turbine, largest project, or lowest subsidy rate.

In the space of only a few years, offshore wind turbines have grown in size to 9.5 MW – even as GE Renewable Energy’s 12 MW Haliade-X was announced earlier this year.

Wind farms have increased from around the 350-500 MW mark and are now beginning to close in on the 1 GW mark – at the same time as Ørsted earlier this year began constructing what will be the world’s largest, the 1.2 GW Hornsea Project One offshore wind farm.

The Walney Extension – though comparatively small compared to more recently-announced competition – builds on the two-phase Walney offshore wind farm which boasts capacity of 367 MW and which provides power for the equivalent of over 320,000 homes, surpassing the London Array as the world’s largest operational wind farm.

The Walney Extension doubles that capacity, with 659 MW generating enough electricity to provide for the equivalent of 590,000 homes.

The opening ceremony, which was held on Thursday in Barrow in the north-west of England, officially commissions the 87 wind turbines – made up of forty 7MW wind turbines supplied by Siemens Gamesa, and another 47 8.25MW wind turbines supplied by MHI Vestas.

Together, the turbines comprise an area of 145 kilometres-squared and will operate for at least 25 years. Walney Extension is owned by Ørsted (50%) alongside two Danish pension funds – PKA (25%) and PFA (25%).

“The UK is the global leader in offshore wind and Walney Extension showcases the industry’s incredible success story,” boasted Matthew Wright, Ørsted UK Managing Director. “The project, completed on time and within budget, also marks another important step towards Ørsted’s vision of a world that runs entirely on green energy.

The North-West region plays an important role in our UK offshore wind operations and our aim is to make a lasting and positive impact here. We want to ensure that the local community becomes an integral part of the renewable energy revolution that’s happening along its coastline.”

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