Interview: Lee Rollason, DONG Energy

Interview: Lee Rollason, DONG Energy

As DONG Energy prepares to open a new state-of-the-art wind farm and maintenance facility in Wirral, Move Commercial caught up with Lee Rollason, head of operations at its Burbo Bank Offshore Wind Farm, to find out more about the company’s growing presence in the North West.

Words by Mark Langshaw

Wind power has been around since mariners first put sails to the breeze and today it forms the basis of a booming industry which has seen exciting developments in the North West.

DONG Energy is at the forefront of the region’s renewable power renaissance and its work in Wirral is proving mutually beneficial to the company and the borough.

Located approximately four miles from the coastline, where the River Mersey meets Liverpool Bay, the firm’s Burbo Bank Offshore Wind Farm covers an area equivalent to 1,400 football fields.

The facility was the first in the world to use Siemens’ 3.6MW turbines and generates enough energy to power more than 60,000 homes, but DONG’s lofty ambitions in the region stretch even further than this.

The energy giant has built a second wind farm in this expanse of the Irish Sea known as the Burbo Bank Extension Offshore Wind Farm. It spans 40km2 and promises to blow previous generation wind technology out of the water now all 32 of its turbines are operational.

The Burbo Bank Extension is a joint venture with PKA and Kirkbi, and a milestone for the industry as the first offshore farm to host the latest eight-megawatt V164 wind machine – the largest hardware of its kind.

“We achieved first power on 20 November last year,” recalls Lee Rollason, head of operations at Burbo Bank. “I remember it well because it was also my grandmother’s birthday. We have the new eight-megawatt V164 wind machine there and it’s the first time this particular piece of hardware has been placed offshore anywhere in the world.

“We have the new eight megawatt V164 wind machine and it’s the first time this particular piece of hardware has been placed offshore anywhere in the world. It’s great that we in the North West have achieved that.”

“It’s great that we in the North West have achieved that. It was the same at the original Burbo Bank farm, which marked the first installation of the 3.6MW Siemens machine offshore. It seems that we’re quite the innovators at DONG.

“Because we have 32 of these machines we expect the electricity generated will be able to power over 230,000 homes in the local area – they’re more than twice the capacity of their predecessors. Each of the eight-megawatt turbines can power a house for 24 hours off a single full rotation.”

Further upping its presence in the North West, DONG is constructing a state-of-the-art operations and maintenance facility at Kings Wharf in Wirral, a centre which will provide day-to-day monitoring, servicing, maintenance and emergency repairs to the wind farms.

“We expect to move into Kings Wharf in late summer of this year,” Rollason says. “Once that site is operational we will be moving our staff at Liverpool and Cammell Laird into the new premises. It will be a huge benefit to have both teams under one roof.”

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DONG’s growth in the North West has proven a win for the region; just ask Wirral Council, which is working closely with the firm as part of its plans to establish the borough as the ‘Clean Energy Coast’.

“I think working closely with the council has proven very beneficial to us, particularly being involved with its ‘Clean Energy Coast’ initiative,” Rollason says. “That’s something we’re proud to be a part of.

“Wirral Council is very forthcoming as a partner. It helped us pick out the Kings Wharf spot.

“There were a couple of other locations we were looking into and working with the council enabled us to find the best solution for DONG and the local residents. We have a great relationship with them.”

Making inroads in Wirral has also helped DONG forge links with North West businesses and organisations, including construction firm Robertson, which is handling building work on the Kings Wharf facility, and Liverpool John Moores University.

Mike O’Shaughnessy, a senior lecturer at the university, teamed up with art students from Wirral Metropolitan College and local poet Nathan Jones to create artwork to brighten up the hoardings surrounding the Kings Wharf development site, but DONG cannot be accused of giving nothing back.

“We’re donating £200k annually to charity through GrantScape and those funds will support projects in the local community”

The company makes charitable donations to support the coastal communities around its wind farm sites and is also doing its bit to nurture talent in the renewable energy sector, with an apprenticeship scheme expected to launch in the Liverpool City Region.

“We’re donating more than £200,000 annually to charity through GrantScape and those funds will support projects in the local community,” Rollason says. “That’s Wirral, Liverpool and other areas in the North West close to the wind farm.

“We have also started a new apprenticeship scheme through DONG Energy which we’re rolling out in other parts of the country at the moment. It isn’t available in the Liverpool City Region right now but that will change in the future.

“Furthermore, we are working with the Teach First initiative and have entered into a deal with them which will see us mentoring students coming into the workplace as well as trainee teachers.”

DONG is officially opening the Burbo Bank Extension on 17 May and, combined with the output of the Burbo Bank Offshore Wind Farm, the company’s Wirral operations have the potential to meet the annual energy requirements of approximately 310,000 UK homes.

Wirral Council has bold ambitions to establish itself as the renewable energy capital of the North and, with the likes of DONG in its corner, the local authority’s plans appear to be breezing along nicely.