2013 to be record year for offshore wind energy

Masdar buys stake in offshore wind farm

Masdar has bought a stake in what is set to be the world’s third-largest offshore wind farm just off the UK’s Norfolk Coast.

Masdar purchased a 35 per cent stake in the project from state-owned Norwegian energy firm Statoil.

Construction of the wind farm, which is set to have a capacity of 400 megawatts (MW), enough to power around 410,000 homes, will be completed in late 2017.

In July, Siemens was awarded a £516 million (Dh3.1 billion) contract for the construction and maintenance of the Dudgeon wind turbines.

Masdar will partner with Statoil, which retains a 35 per cent stake in the project, and will operate the farm. The remaining 30 per cent is owned by Statkraft, Norway’s state-owned electricity firm.

Masdar has previously invested in the UK-based London Array, which has a capacity of 630MW and is the world’s largest offshore power plant. The average US nuclear power plant has a capacity of 1347MW, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration.

The project received financial backing from the UK government last year, with the Green Investment Bank, a state funding vehicle, lending £58.6m as part of a consortium to help Masdar refinance its stake in the London Array.

Masdar also operates a 100MW concentrated solar power plant in the UAE, and an 117MW Tafila wind farm in Jordan.

Offshore wind is one of the most expensive types of energy per Megawatt-hour, according to data from the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, a German research firm.

Higher costs are the result of “the need to use more resistant, more expensive materials, the expensive process of anchoring power plants in the seafloor, cost-intensive installation and logistics for the power plant components, [and] high maintenance costs,” according to a report from the Fraunhofer institute.

But offshore wind investments are likely to become more economical in the future, as firms gain expertise in offshore plant construction, the report said.

“As the only Opec nation supplying both traditional and renewable energy to international markets, the UAE is committed to accelerating the use of wind energy as an effective means of balancing the global energy mix, as we move toward a sustainable, low carbon future,” said Sultan Al Jaber, Masdar’s chairman.

“Combined with London Array, Dudgeon puts Masdar at the forefront of offshore wind development in the UK,” he said. “It will significantly contribute to the expansion of the UK’s renewable energy capacity. It also reinforces the UAE and the UK’s shared commitment to drive the growth of the renewable energy sector.”

The UK is home to nine of the 25 largest offshore wind farms, with plans to add 4.5 Gigawatts of energy to the grid.

The country overtook Denmark in 2008 as the world’s largest producer of wind power, which accounts for around 9 per cent of the UK’s energy needs.

The UK is currently the seventh most attractive destination for companies looking to invest in renewable energy, according to a report from consultancy Ernst and Young, published on Monday.

Ed Davey, the UK energy minister, said: “Masdar’s investment is a strong endorsement of the UK as the best place in the world to invest in offshore wind.”