The world's largest offshore wind farm began regular service in the chilly, windswept North Sea on June 1. When fully operational next year, the United Kingdom's Hornsea One project will have an electricity generating capacity of 1.2 gigawatts, more than 20 times the capacity of the average US power plant.

The first turbine began producing power on a test basis in February. Hornsea One is the 1st part of what's planned to be a 6 GW facility, built in 4 phases, that will power the equivalent of 5 million UK homes.

Chris Skidmore, the UK's interim energy and clean growth minister (yes, the UK government has a minister of state for energy and clean growth), said in a news release that the project confirmed the UK's world leadership in offshore wind.

"We already have the largest installed offshore wind capacity in the world," he said, "and once fully up and running this wind farm will provide enough power for 1 million more homes, putting us well on the way to our target of a 3rd of the UK's electricity coming from offshore wind by 2030."

Hornsea One is remarkable in many ways:

  • As the 1st offshore wind farm with a capacity of more than 1 GW, it's double the size of the previous largest. It will cover 407 square kilometers (157 square miles).
  • It stands 120 kilometers (75 miles) off the Yorkshire coast, farther offshore than any other wind farm.
  • More than 50 turbines are now producing energy. Eventually, it will have 174 Siemens turbines rated at 7 megawatts each. Installation will continue through the summer.
  • Each turbine rises 190 meters (623 feet) above the average water level, more than twice the height of the Statue of Liberty (including the statue's pedestal and foundation). The rotor diameter is 178 meters (584 feet).
  • Two teams of 32 workers operate and maintain the farm, each spending 2 weeks offshore at a time and then 2 weeks back home. They stay on a ship equipped with 40 cabins, a game room, a gym, and 4G wireless internet.

Construction has started on the 1.4 GW Hornsea Two. The developer has submitted an application to begin building Hornsea Three. Hornsea Four is in the planning process.

The North Sea touches the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. Its strong prevailing winds and shallow water have made it a world center of wind power.

Its 1st wind farm, Blyth Offshore, came on line as a 2-turbine, 4 megawatt pilot project in 2000. The 160 megawatt Horns Rev I followed in 2002. More than 40 North Sea wind farms now produce power.

The United States has 1 operational offshore wind farm, the 30 megawatt Block Island Wind Farm off Rhode Island. Several others are planned.