Reaping the whirlwind

24Sep10

Britain’s largest offshore wind farm opened yesterday. This is probably good news.
The wind farm generates enough energy to power 200,000 homes when it is windy. On a calm, foggy day it will light a small torch. According to The Times the turbines occupy an area “the size of 4,000 football pitches”.
4,000 football pitches?
That is hard to picture. Not all football pitches are the same size. What does that equate to in hectares? Or in Trafalgar Squares? Is it a meaningful proportion of the size of Wales? And if it can be expressed as a fraction of a Principality, can that be translated into fractions of Texas or Luxembourg for an international audience?
Some standardisation of units is required.



2 Responses to “Reaping the whirlwind”

  1. 1 Camilla

    I’m not sure there’s an easily comparable measure. You have to bear in mind that the area is subject to an extensive ripple effect, or “waves” as we mariners like to say.

    In addition, since the wind turbines are visible over a vast distance, the actual area between them is almost irrelevant. Within five years, anywhere you sail off Suffolk, Essex or Kent will probably be within view of a windfarm. Thanet is commissioned, Gunfleet almost finished, Greater Gabbard under construction and the London Array starts offshore work next year. Looking at a current electronic chart Gunfleet is the only one marked at all, which is a b**** nuisance. On the Belgian and Dutch side there are further windfarms and also, as you get level with Amsterdam, oil and gas rigs (which are at least extremely easy to see, especially at night).

    I think in this case “an area the size of Wales” is quite possibly the best unit. Wales does ripple up and down quite a bit (although in a more static way than the North Sea) which may help. Unless “an area the size of the southern North Sea” is already an accepted measure?

    Note: a certain amount of Googling turns up the fact that 4,000 football pitches is up to 4,300 hectares or 17 square miles, which is somewhat smaller than San Marino but bigger than Tuvalu. Oh – and this is a good one – very slightly larger than the city of Norwich.

    • Camilla – very thorough as usual. I think we should start lobbying for “an area the size of the southern North Sea” to become a standard unit – subvided into areas the size of Norwich.

      I suppose that sailors must sometimes find it irritating to be surrounded by wind turbines and have nowhere to charge their phones or electronic chart readers.


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