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World's biggest offshore wind farm opens in the UK

Britain on Thursday opened the world's largest offshore wind farm off England's south east coast. The Thanet Offshore Wind Farm will generate enough electricity to power more than 200,000 homes.

Thanet Offshore Wind Farm

The wind farm covers more than 35 square kilometers

The world's biggest wind farm has opened just off England's south eastern coast.

Swedish energy company Vattenfall said the Thanet Offshore Wind Farm's 100 turbines will generate enough electricity to power the equivalent to the annual consumption of more than 200,000 British households.

A total of 341 turbines will be installed over the next four years under the project, at a total cost of 780 million pounds (1.2 billion dollars).

The Thanet farm, which covers an area of more than 35 square kilometers, will be able to produce up to 300 megawatts (MW) of electricity from the English Channel winds and will constitute a significant contribution of green energy in the UK.

Each turbine is 115 meters tall. Construction of the Thanet Offshore Wind Farm took two years and is expected to operate for at least 25 years.

Britain's wind farms currently have a capacity of 5 gigawatts (GW), with a further 18 gigawatts of wind capacity under construction or in the planning.

Man with umbrella blown inside out by wind in Edinburgh

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne said the UK was in a unique position to harness wind energy

Potential world wind leader?

Over the next decade, around 10,000 turbines are expected to become operational around Britain's coasts.

"We are in a unique position to become a world leader in this industry. We are an island nation and I firmly believe we should be harnessing our wind, wave and tidal resources to the maximum," Energy and Climate Change secretary Chris Huhne said at the opening.

The opportunity has attracted big overseas investors, including Vattenfall, Norway's Statoil, and Germany's RWE.

Environmental group Friends of the Earth welcomed the opening as an "important stride forward" in securing future energy supplies, but also said Britain's international record on the use of renewable energy was still "dismal."

Recent statistics show an increase of 31 percent in wind power generation in Britain in 2009. The proportion of wind power in overall energy production in Britain now stands at 5 percent. The UK government aims to cover 15 percent of its energy needs from renewable energy by 2020.

"Today's developments are of tremendous significance. In 2002 the UK was generating around 2 percent of all electricity from renewables. We are now on the threshold of 10 per cent, having increased outputs five-fold," said Maria McCaffery of RenewableUK, the wind energy trade body.

Critics have questioned the costs and efficiency of the government's wind energy plans, given their dependency on the variable powers of the wind.

Author: Nigel Tandy (Reuters/dpa)

Editor: Andreas Illmer

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