World-renowned as the single largest operational offshore wind farm in the world, the London Array officially opened in July, 2013. It was founded and run by three energy companies: E.ON, DONG Energy, and Masdar. Featuring 175 wind turbines, the facility produces 630 megawatts of electricity, powering half a million UK homes every year, which works out to two-thirds of the homes in Kent. The London Array also reduces harmful carbon dioxide emissions by over 900,000 tons annually.
Lauded as an environmentally friendly, cost-effective source of reliable energy for southeast England, the project received its initial green light in 2003 when London Array Ltd obtained a 50-year lease for the 100 km2 location situated an expansive 20 km offshore. A few years later, the onshore site for the now Cleve Hill substation was approved as well.
Onshore construction commenced in 2009 and offshore construction began in 2011, with London Array installing the first above-water wind turbine in January 2012 after spending a year creating the foundation for the project. Impressively, the organization completed the installation of the additional turbines by the end of the same year.
For a wind farm, it is imperative that the site chosen receives plenty of high winds, yet during the over two-year-long offshore construction project, those same attributes proved to be dangerous and unpredictable. The team of 1,000 workers persevered, and secured the wind turbines to the sea floor, constructed substations to increase electricity voltage and ran 450 km of cabling between the turbines and the two offshore substations, and from the offshore substations to the onshore site.
The onshore substation, known as the Cleve Hill substation, sits just one kilometre from north Kent and features a unique design that hints at the site’s and project’s diligence towards environmental protection, with buildings designed to blend nearly-seamlessly with the hillside, courtesy of the RMJM architecture firm. The Cleve Hill substation connects directly to the national electricity grid, where it powers over 500,000 homes every year.
Prime Minister David Cameron officially opened the facility in July 2013 and the London Array has been proving its exceptional worth ever since. A prime example of the level of success possible when forward thinking engineers are backed by years of research, thought and attention to detail, the London Array is a beacon for the renewable energy movement.