As an adult, I don't experience that 'kid going to Disneyland' level of excitement very often... but that changed yesterday in anticipation of a boat tour around the Rampion offshore wind farm. It's 13 km off the coast of Brighton, visible on the horizon from the city. There are 116 wind turbines, which got bigger and bigger as our boat got closer and closer. I don't know what it is about large infrastructure projects, but they fill me with a sense of awe and respect for the engineers involved.
Each turbine outputs a maximum of 3.45 MW of electricity, so in the right wind conditions and if all the turbines are working, the field can generate a maximum of 400 MW. To put that into perspective, right now, the UK's electricity demand is 27,500 MW, so if Rampion generates at its maximum capacity, it would supply about 1.5% of the current demand. Bear in mind that today is Sunday, it's the summer, and it's hot, so the demand is relatively low.
I find it hard to imagine the size of wind turbines. These were 140 m high to the tip of the blade. Luckily, two people working on one of the blades really helped with understanding the scale! You should be able to spot them on the blade in the photo below.
The electricity generated by the rotation of the blades has to be transported back to land to join the National Grid transmission system, so it can be delivered to users like you and me. Each wind turbine has a cable, buried under the seabed, connecting it to the offshore substation.
The substation collects all the electricity, converts it to an appropriate voltage, and then exports all the generation through one cable to shore. These substations look very similar to offshore oil and gas platforms, essentially they are steel structures sitting on the seabed, with equipment bolted to the top. Again, the boat to the right of the photo below gives some perspective on the size.
Alongside generating renewable electricity, this wind farm has turned into a tourist attraction, with commercial tours running from the Brighton Marina. The wind farm has also been positive for biodiversity, because trawling is no longer allowed in the area.
I would highly recommend taking this trip, it's a really fun way to engage with renewable energy and UK's journey to decarbonise electricity generation.
The Rampion wind farm is only a couple of years old, my next aim is to visit a 150 year old infrastructure project - the London sewers. Please get in touch if you know someone who would be willing to take me on a tour!