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Artist's impression of Dogger Bank offshore wind farm

Working together offshore to drive the energy transition

As we start building the world’s largest offshore wind farm, Dogger Bank, close cooperation between us, our partners and suppliers is vital to our success. Here’s how we’re collaborating on this huge project due to open in 2026.

A joint venture between SSE Renewables, Equinor and Vårgrønn, SSE Renewables is leading on the construction and delivery of Dogger Bank Wind Farm. Equinor will operate Dogger Bank Wind Farm on completion for its lifetime of up to 35 years.

Dogger Bank is a huge project. When all 277 windmills (we call them wind turbines) on the field come into operation in 2026, the wind farm will become the biggest in the world, able to produce enough electricity to power around 5% of the UK’s electricity demand, or enough energy to meet the needs of more than six million British homes.

It is being built over 130 km out to sea, where wind speeds are higher and more consistent than near to the shore. But a wind farm doesn’t just consist of wind turbines. To enable the energy generated by the wind turbines to reach land, Dogger Bank also includes three offshore platforms with HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) substations for routing the electricity to shore.

Dogger Bank will be the first offshore wind project in the UK to use HVDC technology to transmit the electricity produced back to shore, ensuring that the electricity is transmitted efficiently over long distances while minimising losses.

Illustration of offshore service vessels at Dogger Bank wind farm
An artist's impression of supply vessels at Dogger Bank Wind Farm
Illustration: North Star

Made in Thailand

The three substation platforms are being built by Aibel at their shipyard Laem Chabang in Thailand, an hour and a half's drive from Bangkok. Engineer Ulrika Forslund, an Equinor employee, is the shipyard and construction manager for the Dogger Bank project in Thailand.

Most of the steelwork is done here, in addition to painting, insulation, pulling cables and installing pipes, ventilation and other equipment, before the platforms are sent to Haugesund in Norway for completion.

”I’m very glad that my experience from other projects can contribute to the energy transition. It is more important than ever to secure energy supplies to Europe, and not just from oil and gas. The tense geopolitical situation heightens my sense that what I am doing is important. To succeed, we must look for solutions together,” she says.

When I was young, I was very concerned about the environment, and with many years of experience as an engineer, I have the tools needed to implement solutions that contribute positively to the energy transition

Ulrika ForslundShipyard and construction manager for the Dogger Bank project in Thailand

In the summer of 2022, Forslund bade farewell to the first of three identical substation platforms, Dogger Bank A, each of them 40 metres high.

It was shipped from Thailand to Haugesund in Norway for completion and fitting out. The second and third platforms, Dogger Bank B and C, are scheduled for delivery in 2023 and 2024. The platforms will receive electricity from the wind turbines, convert it from alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC) and then route it to the national grid onshore for distribution to British households and industry.

Forslund has extensive experience from various projects worldwide, and is keen to point out how her background in oil and gas is relevant to developing new industrial solutions for renewables.

”There is a kind of cultural bond between Equinor and Aibel, based on our long-standing relationship. We are used to working together across countries, languages, cultures and companies, which is a good starting point for large projects like this,” says Forslund.

The substation platforms that will receive the power from the wind turbines at the Dogger Bank offshore wind farm outside Great Britain are built here at Aibel’s shipyard in Thailand.
Photo: Mona Winge/Aibel

Wind power projects are by no means straightforward – there is a lot of ground-breaking development work to be done. Decades of experience from offshore oil and gas are essential to solving complicated tasks such as process digitalisation, data science and analysis, robotics and remote control.

We have been digitising our work processes for many years and can therefore work efficiently in renewables projects. Recent years have seen great strides made in drone and robot technology, and this expertise is crucial when developing unmanned platforms.
“Despite major challenges during the pandemic, the first platform was delivered to Haugesund as planned in May 2022. A well-established culture of cooperation is much of the reason why it was possible,” says Forslund.

Completion in Haugesund

The Dogger Bank project is exciting because it requires a different way of thinking. The platforms are designed for unmanned operation and remote control from land, so there are no helipads, no living quarters nor any eating facilities. They will be left alone in the North Sea and will only be visited by service personnel once a year or when necessary,” says Are Bjørkgård, one of Aibel’s project managers for Dogger Bank.

He has just returned to the Haugesund shipyard from a week at the shipyard in Laem Chabang. There, he followed up the construction of platforms B and C, which will transform electricity from wind turbines out at sea.

Are Bjørkgård is one of Aibel's project managers for Dogger Bank in Haugesund. He receives an almost finished platform from Thailand and will deliver a completely finished platform to the UK.

Platform A has already been equipped with 230 kilometres of cables in Thailand. In Haugesund, it is being fitted out with the very latest technology and transformers, valves and lifting equipment before undertaking the last leg of its journey to the coast offshore Great Britain.

”In this project, a number of parties work in parallel and must complete things at about the same time, so coordination and cooperation is key. We depend on good communication flow. This means, for example, that we share our experience from the Haugesund phase with Thailand so that they can make necessary improves to the other two platforms. We also have a close dialogue with those in the UK working on getting everything ready for installation and operation at sea,” says Bjørkgård.

In Haugesund, the platforms are fitted out with technology and completed before being transported out to sea, where they will receive electricity from the wind turbines and deliver it to the British national grid.
Photo: Øyvind Sætre/Equinor

Over many years and projects, Equinor and Aibel have developed many of the same routines and transport and logistics arrangements. In addition, many of the same people collaborate, so the working day and the way the projects are carried out are similar.

If offshore wind is to be competitive in the future, it is necessary to look at more standardised solutions in the design phase. To strip down the constructions to a minimum, Norwegian and international suppliers have worked to find new and innovative solutions and get them approved by the certification authorities.

“Everyone involved is a bit of a pioneer in a new industry. I can’t deny that we have a sense of pride working on a job like this and being part of renewable investments at a time when the need for energy is so enormous,” says Bjørkgård.

Platforms will be installed offshore

“We must look into the future and plan how to operate the field. Some of our technicians are in Haugesund now to monitor the equipment that will later be installed here,” says Mick Robinson, senior engineer at Equinor responsible for security and operations for Dogger Bank. He is in Port of Tyne, 130 kilometres from the giant offshore wind farm about to take shape.

Here, Equinor is building a large operation and maintenance base that will be completed during 2022. From here, the three platforms will be remotely controlled, and the power will come ashore.

I have a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, and I would very much like to see her grow up in a cleaner world. So I am proud to be involved in this project.

Mick RobinsonSenior engineer. Equinor

For Robinson, all the information he can get from Aibel while the platforms are being built in Norway and Thailand is vital to ensure good planning. Here, they collaborate down to the details, such as finding out which spare parts they need to have in stock in the future.

“Learning from each other and working together is part of the Equinor culture, and they have the same mindset at Aibel. We are keen to ensure that we have access to the best knowledge and that we learn from others' experience,” says Robinson.

Facts about Dogger Bank offshore wind farm

  • At their highest point above sea level, the windmills installed on the Dogger Bank field are 260 metres tall, more than two and a half times the height of Big Ben.
  • One windmill can provide enough clean energy to power 16,000 British households and save emissions equivalent to 9,000 vehicles in a year.
  • Each blade of the turbine is 107 meters long, which is greater than the total wingspan of an A380 aircraft, and one rotation can power a British household for two days.
  • The weight of a platform with all equipment in place is estimated at approximately 8,500 tonnes. With steel undercarriage and piles, the total weight is around 13,500 tonnes.

This is one of many stories from our first 50 years. It is also part of the story of how we will succeed with the energy transition.

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