September 24, 2010

Vattenfall Opens World’s Largest Wind Farm

A Swedish energy company announced the opening of the largest offshore wind farm on Thursday, as the British government pushes to reduce carbon emissions that drive climate change, receiving a strong welcome from environmental campaigners.

The farm consists of 100 installed giant turbines in the North Sea off the eastern Kent coast. Vattenfall, the company that built the farm, said a total of 341 turbines are planned for the farm. The farm has the potential to power 200,000 homes.

The farm will increase Britain's capacity to generate wind power by more than 30 percent. The 380-foot tall turbines are spread out over more than 22 square miles and are visible from shore.

At full capacity, the farm should be able to produce 300 megawatts, which would see Britain's renewable energy capacity rise to five gigawatts.

Britain's energy minister, Craig Huhne, said: "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," he told AFP.

The wind farm was an "important stride forward," said Craig Bennett, the campaigns and policy director for Friends of the Earth. But he warned that Britain's record on renewable energy was "dismal."

Critics note that the turbines only produce energy when there is wind and as of yet there is no cost-effective fuel cell developed that could store the power once it has been produced.

"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.," said energy expert Professor Ian Fells.

"The other problem is they are intermittent. You never know when the wind is going to blow," he told the BBC.

The new wind farm opened as the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) forecast that wind power worldwide would double between 2010 and 2014 to produce more than 400 gigawatts.

GWEC secretary general Steve Sawyer said wind energy continues to be "a growth market, weathering the economic crisis much better than some analysts had predicted."

As the power market becomes more competitive, "it is rapidly expanding beyond the traditional markets in North America and Europe. Around half of the growth is now happening in emerging economies and developing countries," he said.


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