A windfarm off the coast of Cumbria, which will become the world’s largest on completion, has sparked into life and generated electricity for the first time.

Dong Energy’s Walney Extension Offshore Wind Farm, located around 19km from Walney Island, has now started providing electricity to the National Grid following the successful installation of the first of 87 turbines.

Once fully commissioned, Walney Extension will leapfrog London Array to become the world’s largest operational offshore wind farm, and generate enough clean energy to meet the annual electricity demands of more than half a million UK homes.

Andrew Cotterell, Walney Extension Programme Director at DONG Energy, said construction of the 659MW windfarm was progressing well.

He said: “We are delighted to have passed such an important milestone for the project.

“Exporting first power to the grid on schedule is the culmination of extensive on-shore and off-shore works and is testament to the hard work of everyone involved.”

The windfarm includes 40 V164-8.0 MW turbines from MHI Vestas Offshore Wind and a further 27 Siemens Gamesa turbines, which altogether will cover a 145km square area of the Irish Sea.

Construction of the project is being co-ordinated from a base at the Port of Barrow, which is operated by Associated British Ports.

The port is already home for the operating and maintenance teams for three other DONG Energy offshore windfarms, Barrow, Walney and West of Duddon Sands.

DONG Energy has also set up a £15 million community fund to support local projects and organisations.

Around £600,000 is being made available annually for the expected 25-year lifetime of the windfarm, including a £100,000 ring-fenced 'Skills Fund' to promote education and support local students.

Small grants of between £500 and £5,000 and “main grants” of between £5,001 and £75,000 are made available in two annual funding rounds, which is being administered by national charity GrantScape.

For further details of how to apply visit GrantScape’s website www.grantscape.org.uk.