Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Biggest Offshore Wind Farm Allowed With Protection for Porpoises

  • Dong Energy project will require $7.8 billion investment
  • Danish utility must still obtain subsidy for giant project

The U.K. government approved construction of the world’s largest offshore wind farm, providing the developer Dong Energy A/S doesn’t disturb porpoises off the Yorkshire Coast.

The leading builder of offshore wind farms, Dong won approval from Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark to build the 1.8 gigawatt Hornsea Project Two, which will require investment of about 6 billion pounds ($7.8 billion).

“Britain is a global leader in offshore wind, and we’re determined to be one of the leading destinations for investment in renewable energy, which means jobs and economic growth right across the country,” said Clark in a statement posted on the department’s website on Tuesday.

The project is expected to be the largest of its kind once it’s built, surpassing Dong’s 1.2 gigawatt Hornsea Project One, which reached financial close earlier this year.

The government delayed its decision on Hornsea Project Two from June, giving extra time to examine the impact the project may have on harbor porpoise populations. Earlier this year, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs proposed a large area of the southern North Sea for protection from development. The zone overlaps with several large-scale offshore wind projects in planning or development, including Hornsea Project Two.

Harbor porpoises are particularly sensitive to underwater noise from offshore wind construction, according to Rebecca Williams, climate and energy specialist for the WWF. She said she was satisfied that the impact on porpoises at Hornsea Two had been thoroughly examined before the decision was made. Clark said the license should only be granted if construction and piling is done in seasons with the least impact.

“We welcome that additional conditions were placed on the developer to ensure that there are no adverse effects on the site integrity for harbor porpoises,” Williams said. “This shows that effectively managed Marine Protection Areas are good for renewables and nature.”

Subsidy question

In order to reach financial close on the project, Dong Energy must now secure a contract for difference from the government through an auction process. The company may have to split the project in bidding given its vast size and the government’s limited budget, said Tom Harries, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance in London.

“By obtaining a permit Dong has jumped the lowest hurdle in building Hornsea 2, but the bigger hurdle will be securing a subsidy,” Harries said. “The lack of transparency and details on future CfD rounds means Dong will have to sit and wait to see if there is room for this huge offshore wind farm in future CfD budgets.”

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