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Tenth anniversary for wind farm.

wind farm off the coast of NORTH Wales is AAAcelebrating its 10th anniversary this July.

The North Hoyle wind farm, developed by RWE Innogy UK, was declared operational in July 2004 and is the first large-scale offshore wind farm in the UK to reach such a milestone.

And it's a double celebration for the company as it also marks the installation of all 160 turbines at Gwynt y Mor offshore wind farm, in construction just along the North Wales coast.

North Hoyle is a 30-turbine wind farm with a 60 megawatt (MW) capacity, built in 2003 . The first of its kind, North Hoyle has been responsible for a string of firsts which have provided a baseline for the rest of the industry to build on.

It was built out of the Port of Mostyn, where a dedicated offshore supply chain has sprouted.

The physical infrastructure required and the experience and expertise developed at North Hoyle has helped the port go on to become a linchpin in the construction of RWE's Rhyl Flats and Gwynt y Mor wind farms.

North Hoyle also pioneered the first ever Community Investment Fund from an offshore wind farm in the UK, and which is likely to invest more than PS1.5m into the communities of Rhyl, Prestatyn and Meliden over the lifetime of the wind farm. It has supported a range of community projects since, from community centres; schools; health organisations, to local carnival associations.

And it was the first offshore wind farm in the UK to consistently monitor its environmental impacts throughout both construction and operation phases, providing a baseline from which other offshore wind farms can be built on.

Ten years ago Innogy staff, who originally helped develop North Hoyle, only had onshore wind and the oil and gas sectors to draw on for experience. Now, the experience gained from North Hoyle has helped Innogy's offshore team become one of the most knowledgeable in the sector.

Jess Graham was part of the team originally tasked with understanding the energy yield likely to come from the wind farm. She said the work carried out at the time proved to be well informed, yet equally had to rely on a lot of educated assumptions around wind behaviour and anticipated maintenance.

curve to access The tidal meant She said: "You've got to remember the team was making calculations about offshore wind performance in the UK for the first time ever, and so we had to look at the way things tended to work onshore. There were definitely areas where the knowledge simply did not exist.

"The [meteorological] mast was particularly important, as the data it provided was crucial - just putting that up was a remarkable first for all involved. We now have a lot more operational knowledge thanks to North Hoyle, which has allowed us to be as groundbreaking in our work at the likes of Gwynt y Mor."

Electricity generation has regularly been in step with projections, with North Hoyle generating enough to power 40,000 homes in all but one operational year.

Former operational manager Adrian Emanuel, based at the Port of Mostyn, was involved in the construction of North Hoyle and is now operations delivery manager at Gwynt y Mor.

He said: "It was a pioneering time for everyone. Vessels were adapted from the local fishing community - they certainly were not built for the industry as vessels are today.

"It was a very steep learning curve with skippers being asked to access turbines for the first time. The tidal conditions at North Hoyle meant this was new to everyone.

"Some skippers had come from one of Europe's first offshore wind farms in Denmark, which was built just 12 months ahead of North Hoyle, but tidal conditions were very different there.

"The turbines used were really onshore turbines scaled up for offshore use, and planning of time and resource quickly became a much more significant issue - no longer could technicians turn up at the weekend with a van to fix a broken turbine."

The last 10 years of operation has provided the sector with invaluable insight into the challenges and solutions of maintaining a major energy asset in the harsh marine environment.

Mike Bradley has been involved in the operation and maintenance of North Hoyle since day one. He said: "I remember when I initially started out as a contractor on North Hoyle, I asked for guidance. I was handed a blank sheet of paper and told that no-one had done anything like this in the UK before.

"We still had to get the job done, so we progressed albeit very cautiously, and have since established safe ways of working offshore that have stood not only in favour of North Hoyle but in support of the whole industry.

"There are certain things you can only learn by working in that environment, before you can begin to understand the intricacies of working offshore - and that's what we had to do at North Hoyle.

"As a result, we have seen vessels changed to work better in the offshore environment, we've seen techniques and tools adapted for the better."

It was a very steep learning curve with skippers being asked to access turbines for the first time. The tidal conditions at North Hoyle meant this was new to everyone
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 19, 2014
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