World's Largest Wind Farm Begins Operation

Thanet's turbines

While Cape Wind, the nation's only planned off-shore wind farm, struggles to start construction, Thanet Wind Farm, located seven miles off the blustery coast of Kent, England, has officially begun operation.

Located in water over 50 feet deep and standing 385 feet tall, the project's 100 Vestas turbines are spread over 35 sq km, making it the world's largest off-shore wind farm in the world.

Swedish power company, Vattenfall, began the construction phase two years ago, finally putting the last turbine in place in June. Completed for 780 million pounds, on windy days it will produce 300 megawatts and power 200,000 homes. This brings the UK's total wind power capacity to over 5 gigawatts. Currently, there are close to 250 wind farms in the UK, with 12 more off shore, bringing the total number of turbines to 2,909.

The BBC produced this video about the first day.

At the opening ceremony, RenewableUK's chief executive Maria McCafferty spoke optimistically about the future of wind energy, "Five gigawatts is an important milestone because it takes us within reach of our 2020 targets..."

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne, also visiting the site, summed up the political mood, "We are an island nation and I firmly believe we should be harnessing our wind, wave and tidal resources."

Click to read Vattenfall's press release.

Even with a bureaucratic thumbs up from Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and the Mass. Supreme Court, Cape Wind is still stuck in legal-regulatory limbo-and waiting... According to the Boston Globe:

While the wind farm is proposed in federal waters, beyond the reach of most state and local agency decisions, a transmission line will cross state waters and tie into the region's electricity grid on land, giving various government agencies authority to review pieces of the project, including the towns of Barnstable and Yarmouth and the Cape Cod Commission.

Simulation: turbines seen from Nantucket

How quickly can the US catch up?

Photos: Vattenfall Corp.
Photo simulation: Cape Wind


ehorahan's picture

It depends on when our elected officials can put aside their political agendas and focus on real problems. I definately think it is important that the states involved work with the federal governments and review the plans, but I fear that political agendas will interfere with progress. Its the political SOP.

Kent Harrington's picture

I wasn't clear about my final point. Much of the anti-Cape Wind agenda is driven by dynastic families with very deep pockets and influence-- the Kennedy's, the Koch's and probably others. Ironically both are from opposite ends of the political spectrum, but close ranks around this case of NIMBY-on steroids. I'm assuming the regulatory boards are influenced by these powerful families-- Chinatown meet The Ponderosa meet Howard Hughes.

Kent Harrington's picture

Thanks. I'm considering joining it with another article about the Italian Mafia trying to muscle into the wind energy sector-- kind of a leading indicator predicting wind's success.

Barbara Durkin's picture

Cape Wind represents a cost premium of over 4.5 billion for unreliable energy. What's the goal, to create fuel poverty and grid instability? Telegraph U.K. September 25, 2010 'The Thanet wind farm will milk us of billions The media remain conspicuously silent about the real price we pay for wind energy, says Christopher Booker.'