The UK is the world’s leading developer of offshore wind power with a total installed capacity of more than 5,000MW. The London Array, built in the outer reaches of the Thames Estuary, presently stands as the world’s largest offshore wind farm which, with a capacity of 630MW, can rival a medium-sized gas-fired power station. The proposed Hornsea-2 offshore site, which the UK government approved earlier this month, will be larger still. More than 100km from the east coast, the project will, together with neighbouring Hornsea-1 provide up to 3,000MW. It will dwarf any of the other 60 offshore wind farms already built. These projects are getting bigger – and heading further and further offshore. A metric known as the “load factor” is used as a measure of how much a power plant produces on average (taking into account it is not at full output all the time) as a fraction of its maximum possible output. For onshore wind power this was 29.4% in 2015 and for offshore it was 33.3% During a particularly wind December 2015, the London Array’s load factor was 78.9% – which is a level closer to that expected from a nuclear power station. These figures are testament to the higher and less variable winds that are seen offshore. As projects are built further from the coast, average wind speeds increase, along with the load factor.
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