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The North Sea’s Most Important Energy Play Isn’t Oil

Haley Zaremba

Things have not been looking good for North Sea energy. In fact, last November, Oilprice went so far as to declare that “North Sea Oil Is Doomed With Or Without Brexit,” as all of the Brexit speculation has already scared off enough investment to do lasting damage to the once-flourishing North Sea oil industry. After years of bad news, however, it looks like the winds of change are finally blowing for energy production in the North Sea.

The North Sea energy is set to get much, much greener as construction begins on a massive offshore wind farm. On Friday, Scottish energy firm SSE Renewables announced that work on what they say will be “the world’s largest offshore wind farm” --the 3.6-gigawatt (GW) Dogger Bank Wind Farms project--had begun. The massive development, which is a joint venture between SSE and energy major Equinor, based in Norway, is taking place offshore of the coastal village of Ulrome in East Riding of Yorkshire, England. The wind farm will be comprised of three different offshore sites (Creyke Beck A, Creyke Beck B and Teesside A), each with a capacity of 1.2 GW. 

The managing director of Dogger Bank Wind Farms Steve Wilson said of the project in a published official statement that “getting the first spade in the ground is a significant milestone on any project, but for what will be the world’s largest offshore wind farm, this is a major moment for a project that has already been over a decade in the making.”

The Dogger Bank Wind Farms project is certainly not England’s first foray into wind power, but it is set to be the nation’s biggest wind farm venture by far--and is even purported to be the world’s biggest. As reported by CNBC, “The U.K. is a major player in the offshore wind sector. It is home to projects such as the 659-megawatt Walney Extension facility, in the Irish Sea, which was officially opened in 2018. The scale of that project is considerable: it is capable of powering more than 590,000 homes, has 87 turbines and covers an area of around 20,000 soccer pitches.” 

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The CNBC article goes on to say that “Europe as a whole is home to a significant offshore wind sector. According to industry body WindEurope, 409 wind turbines were connected to the grid in 2018. The average size of offshore turbines in 2018 was 6.8 MW, which represents a 15% rise compared to 2017.”

This progress for renewable energy in Europe and in the UK represents an especially poignant victory in the fight against climate change when taken in a wider context: the construction of the world’s biggest offshore wind farm is breaking soil (figuratively speaking) just weeks after United States President and “leader of the free world” Donald Trump went on a “bizarre” rant against wind power and specifically wind turbines, saying, among other statements, “I never understood wind. You know, I know windmills very much. They’re noisy. They kill the birds. You want to see a bird graveyard? Go under a windmill someday. You’ll see more birds than you’ve ever seen in your life.”

While the U.S. President rails against renewables, however, the United Nations has been busy stressing that “renewables are needed now more than ever” and a considerable ramping up of infrastructure and investment is needed if the world is to have any hope of reaching the greenhouse gas emissions standards set by the Paris climate accord in order to avoid catastrophic climate change. Making the beginning steps of the world’s biggest offshore wind farm even more hopeful is that the project is an almost direct replacement of the North Sea’s faltering oil industry with a much greener energy alternative, in what we hope will be a harbinger of change at a crucial junction in the global fight against climate change.

By Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com

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