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World’s largest offshore wind farm opens in Kent

AFP   23 Sept 2010

The 380ft (115m) turbines are spaced out over an area of more than 22 square miles (35 square km)

LONDON — The world’s largest offshore wind farm was officially opened off the east Kent coast on Thursday, a forest of turbines that aims to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions.

The site near Thanet has 100 turbines and Swedish energy company Vattenfall, which constructed the farm, says it has the potential to power 200,000 homes, or more than 25 percent of households in the county.

The farm will increase the UK’s capacity to generate wind power by more than 30 percent.

The 380ft (115m) turbines are spaced out over an area of more than 22 square miles (35 square km) and are visible from the shore on a clear day.

The site, situated around seven miles (12 km) out to sea, is expected to produce 300 megawatts of energy at full capacity and which would see overall UK renewable energy capacity rise to 5 gigawatts.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne has welcomed recent progress on wind power in the UK.

“We are in a unique position to become a world leader in this industry,” Huhne said.

“We are an island nation and I firmly believe we should be harnessing our wind, wave and tidal resources to the maximum.

“I know that there is still more to do to bring forward the large sums of investment we want to see in low-carbon energy in the UK, and we as a Government are committed to playing our part.”

Craig Bennett, the campaigns and policy director for Friends of the Earth, said the Thanet wind farm was an “important stride forward” but warned the UK’s record on renewable energy was “dismal”.

Critics point out that the turbines only produce energy when the wind is blowing and that as yet no cost-effective fuel cell has been developed for storing the power once it has been produced.

Professor Ian Fells, an energy expert, told the BBC: “What worries me is the government seems to be obsessed with the option of wind farms and neglects other sources of renewable energy, which in many ways could be more important.

“The other problem is they are intermittent. You never know when the wind is going to blow.”

In all, up to 341 turbines will be installed at the site over a four-year period.

Construction work at the £780m wind farm began two years ago and was completed this month.

There are currently around 250 wind farms operating in the UK, with a further 12 offshore, with 2,909 turbines in operation in total.

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