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Big Offshore Wind Farm to Power 415,000 Homes

From our friends at the Matter Network.

For those concerned with the state of the environment, many of this week’s headlines might not have seemed the most promising. After a long and protracted battle, the polar bear finally made its presence on the United States’ list of endangered species official. One study found that greenhouse gas levels had reached their highest mark in 800,000 years, and another catalogued the massive number of changes pinpointed to anthropogenic global warming in the past 30 years.  With little change, you might fear the future of the planet was lost already.

But today’s news also brought word of a very positive change: a new World’s Largest  Offshore Wind Farm has been announced, with an impressive three billion dollar price tag already sunk into the projects bank account. The crown of world’s largest offshore wind farm, which has bounced around quite a bit over the past few years, will settle for the time being just off the coast of Kent, England. Dubbed “Greater Gabbard”, the project, when completed in 2011, is slated to generate some 504 megawatts, or enough electricity for 415,000 homes.

The decision to build the plant, and the go-ahead for funding today, were seen by some as a much-needed shot in the arm for the wind energy industry. Reported struggles as of late include the pull-out of Dutch firm Royal Shell from the London Array—an even more ambitious offshore wind project—and a warnings from energy companies that the growing cost of wind farms might impede their ability to become profitable.  But the willingness to green-light this project, and the eagerness of companies to buy in, seems to suggest concerns over the future of wind farms may be passing.

“This is a great boon for the United Kingdom. Wind on such scale will bring strong economic and environmental benefits for the UK,” said Eddie O’Connor, CEO of Airtricity, one of the companies participating in the project. “Greater Gabbard will save money as well as contributing to the amount of electricity generated from emissions-free sources.”  The project will continue to push Great Britain to the forefront of offshore wind power, adding to the more than two gigawatts already being produced.

While this seems like tremendous amount electricity, however, it still falls well behind Germany, whose current wind production levels of 20.6 gigawatts make it far and away the world’s most wind-reliant nation. Indeed, Greater Gabbard’s scope is dwarfed by many other wind-based operations currently in planning, including T. Boone Pickens’ six-billion-dollar, four-gigawwatt proposal for the Texas panhandle.

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