Offshore construction underway for RWE’s £3b Sofia wind farm

Offshore construction is underway on the North Sea’s next wind farm.

The first sections of high voltage export cable, set to transport the power generated by RWE’s 1.4GW Sofia project back to the UK grid, are now being laid. Located off the North East coast, specialist vessel Leonardo da Vinci marks the significant milestone for the £3 billion project, sailing from Middlesbrough.

When completed in 2026, the 100 Siemens Gamesa 14MW turbines will be operated and maintained from Grimsby’s Royal Dock, where a major extension of an initial base has recently begun. It will see a hub created for several farms operated by the German energy giant, with recruitment for more than 20 roles opening earlier this year. Blades will be built in Hull, with almost half set to be recyclable.

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Sven Utermöhlen, chief executive of RWE Offshore Wind, said: “Sofia is RWE’s largest renewable construction project to date, and its furthest from shore. The project is setting new standards in terms of addressing innovation, sustainability, and engineering challenges. The laying of the first section of export cable represents the culmination of 13 years of planning, preparation, and diligence, as well as a huge amount of support from suppliers and stakeholders alike. Building a project of this size and scale is a great opportunity to demonstrate our expertise in delivering offshore wind energy around the globe.”

Located in the Dogger Bank zone of the North Sea, 195 km from the nearest shoreline, it will feature a single offshore converter platform, with the electricity generated transported to landfall 220 kilometres away in Redcar, Teesside.

The cables on board Prysmian’s 170-metre-long vessel, Leonardo da Vinci (top left), and how the completed Sofia farm was envisaged early in the planning process.
The cables on board Prysmian’s 170-metre-long vessel, Leonardo da Vinci (top left), and how the completed Sofia farm was envisaged early in the planning process.

Cable contract winner Prysmian’s 170-metre-long vessel will lay two 130 kilometre sections of cable in parallel. It will start its cable laying work from just off the Teesside coast between Redcar and Marske-by-the-Sea. One end of each of the two sections of subsea cable will be pulled underwater from the vessel through cable ducts that were installed earlier this year. The cable will pass below the beach, sand dunes and road before emerging at the landfall construction compound. The cutting-edge vessel will then move away from the coast, laying the full length of cable along its set route towards the offshore wind farm.

Installation of two remaining 90km sections of marine export cable is planned for 2024. By late 2024, Leonardo da Vinci will have laid four sections of insulated HVDC marine export cables, totalling 440 kilometres, plus the accompanying communications cables.

Onshore construction has been underway in Teesside since June 2021, with work focused on the project’s onshore converter station and cable corridor. The laying of the first sections of export cable marks the start of a three year offshore construction phase.

The project’s offshore converter platform is due to make the journey from Batam, Indonesia to the UK in 2024. Also planned for next year is the start of installation of the 100 extended monopile foundations and array cables.

The location of the Sofia wind farm.
The location of the Sofia wind farm.

Tom Glover, RWE’s UK country chair, said: “RWE has 10 offshore wind farms already operating around the UK, and is a leading partner in the generation of clean energy that will help ensure security of electricity supply. This major construction milestone at Sofia further demonstrates our enviable expertise in offshore wind, which has been pioneered over 20 years in the UK. And the UK remains of significant strategic importance to RWE. We are continuing to drive our ambition to grow green through a strong future development pipeline, which will play a key role in delivering our own and the country’s future net zero ambitions.”

RWE has a strong UK pipeline and is involved in four of the UK’s seven offshore wind extension projects, plus two Round Four Dogger Bank South projects. The company is also exploring offshore floating wind projects, including in the Celtic Sea region.

Sofia will make a significant contribution towards the country’s net zero targets, and be capable of generating enough clean electricity equivalent to meeting the needs of over 1.2 million typical UK homes.

Original artice – https://business-live.co.uk/all-about/yorkshire-humber

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