GE Renewable Energy has landed the biggest prize to date in the offshore wind industry with the award of a preferred supplier agreement to deliver as many as 300 of its record-setting Haliade-X turbines for the giant 3.6GW Dogger Bank project being built off the UK by a developer consortium made up of Equinor and SSE.

The provisional contract for Dogger Bank – a complex of three 1.2GW wind farms given a Contract for Difference (CfD) last month by the British government – comes on the heels of a breakthrough deal for the 12MW machine from Danish utility Orsted for its in-development Skipjack and Ocean Wind projects in the US Atlantic.

The UK order, which hinges on a final investment decision on Dogger Bank, expected before the end of next year, would kick-off a £9b ($11bn) capital investment by the developers, elevating the project to rival the biggest offshore oil & gas projects now taking shape worldwide and underpinning an emerging UK supply chain.

“This agreement gives us the opportunity to bring the world’s most powerful offshore wind turbine to the world’s largest offshore wind market [ie, the UK],” said John Lavelle, chief executive of GE Renewable Energy’s offshore wind business.

“We have an important role to play in the UK’s offshore wind ambitions and in delivering further carbon emission reductions. Our Haliade-X technology [will help] make offshore wind a more competitive source of energy by reducing the levelised cost of energy.”

Paul Cooley, SSE Renewables’ director of capital projects, said it was “exciting be the first European wind farm to install and operate these innovative turbines … [and to] play a central role in helping the UK become carbon neutral by 2050”.

Equinor Dogger Bank project director Bjørn Ivar Bergemo stated: “Our success in the CfD auction was due in large part to the relationships we have built with our supply chain, which enabled the lowest ever strike prices. The Haliade-X represents a step change in turbine technology [that will] maximise innovation and supply chain benefits for the UK.”

The order for Dogger Bank will be delivered out of GE’s Saint-Nazaire and Cherbourg factories in France, which will also manufacture the turbines for Orsted’s US projects, on a time-line that will see hundreds of Haliade-Xs rolled out between 2022-2025.

Speaking to Recharge, Lavelle said: “The good news is that this [order from Equinor/SSE] isn’t unexpected. This is the way we thought it would play out. We are very well-prepared and we have time. One thing we know how to do [at GE] is ramp up factories and drive productivity, maintain quality, develop a supply chain.

Dogger Bank will be central to the UK’s so-called ‘sector deal’ plans to capitalise on the economic development potential represented by offshore wind – which is foreseen providing 30GW of power to the national grid by 2030.

“We have been making an effort on this front for over a year,” said Lavelle. “We have been in contact with over 100 local suppliers, small- and medium-size enterprises around the UK who can grow with us, not just in the UK but also globally. We are working very closely with [Equinor/SSE] on their plans for Dogger Bank too.”

A decision on a coastal assembly hub for the Dogger Bank Haliade-Xs will be taken “in the next six months”, he added.

Once fully operational, Dogger Bank, located in water depths of 20-35 metres some 130km from the UK’s north-east coast, will supply power to over 4.5 million homes annually, equivalent to around 5% of the country's estimated electricity generation.

The Haliade-X’s 220-metre-diameter rotor will capture wind to turn a direct-drive and permanent-magnet-generator transmission system with a 63% gross capacity factor, which, by GE’s calculations, will translate to $35-50m more revenue per unit over the life of a wind farm compared to the 10MW turbines currently being sold by MHI Vestas and SiemensGamesa .

A prototype of the design, which will fly record-setting 107-metre blades developed by GE-owned LM Wind Power, is about to begin trials in the Port of Rotterdam, with further component tests being carried out at the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult’s R&D facility in Blyth, UK.

With the offshore wind industry scaling up turbine size regularly in recent years to cross the 10MW nameplate mark and beyond, GE is hedging against setting a “final number” of turbines to be installed at Dogger Bank, saying it would confirm how many of the Haliade-Xs will be used at the project “in due course”.

“The Haliade-X is a platform. So, 300 [units] is good round number, but with the time-frames in mind, 2022-2024, we are obviously going to be working to enhance the design and if [that technology development] plays out we have a close enough relationship with [Equinor/SSE] to deploy that technology in the right way.”

Swedish utility Vattenfall was the first developer to opt to deploy Haliade-Xs, announcing in May it would use the machine for projects in the North and Baltic Seas but stopping short of naming GE as its preferred supplier. The giant turbine has also been mooted for the 720MW Asa Branca project off Brazil and the OEM recently unveiled plans to build a dedicated Haliade-X factory in China, to manufacture the machine for Asia-Pacific.

The growth of the global offshore wind market continues to confound conservative industry analysts, with the International Renewable Energy Agency last month doubling its forecasts for 2050, when it now expects more than 1,000GW will be installed and turning around the world.