With the flip of a switch, the $1.2 billion Thanet Offshore Wind farm boosts UK wind energy capacity by 30%, making it the largest producer of offshore wind energy in the world.
This story has a theme I never get tired of reporting. Whether it is the opening of the largest solar thermal plant in the U.S., or the completion of the world's biggest tidal energy plant, when it comes big chunks of new renewable energy capacity coming online, I feel obliged to report the news--partially for my own sanity--especially when so much of environmental reporting has historically been a bit doom-and-gloom.
Seven miles off the coast of Kent at its closet point, the $1.2 billion Thanet Offshore Wind Farm today officially began powering the UK grid with 300 megawatts of new renewable energy capacity -- enough capacity to provide electricity and heat for the equivalent of 200,000 British homes. For the time being, the wind farm is the largest offshore wind farm in the world. Other offshore wind projects in the pipeline, like the 420-megawatt Cape Wind facility, approved by the U.S. Department of Interior this past spring, will be even larger than Thanet.
Today's connection boosts the UK's total offshore wind capacity by more than 30 percent, making the island nation the largest producer of offshore wind energy in the world.
"We are in a unique position to become a world leader in this industry," said Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne, who the Press Association reports was on hand for the launch ceremony.
"We are an island nation and I firmly believe we should be harnessing our wind, wave and tidal resources to the maximum," said Mr. Huhne.
With 5GW of wind energy capacity already feeding the UK grid (three-quarters of which comes from land-based wind farms) and another another 18GW of wind capacity in construction and in the project pipeline, the UK is well on its way to reach its renewable energy target of generating one-third of its electricity via renewable sources by 2020.
At one point in early September, British utility National Grid revealed that 10 percent of the UK's electricity was being generated by wind farms.
"We are expecting to see the contribution of electricity from wind gradually increase over the next decade, to around 30% of the UK's total consumption," Maria McCaffery, chief executive of RenewableUK said last week.
Based in Sweden, state-owned Vattenfall is one of the largest wind power operators in Britain and is the fifth largest energy producer in Europe. The company will employ 21 full-time workers--20 of whom were local hires--in a new maintenance facility built nearby in the Port of Ramsgate.