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UK to build world's biggest offshore wind farm

341 turbines, lots of green 'leccy

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The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has approved a plan to erect 341 wind turbines off the coast of south-east England, The Guardian reports.

The London Array wind farm will be the biggest of its kind in the world, spread across 145 square miles, 12 miles off the coast between Margate in Kent and Clacton in Essex. The DTI also approved another development at Thanet on the Thames Estuary - 100 turbines sited seven miles off north Foreland on the Kent coast. The combined output of the schemes could be up to 1.3GW - "enough to meet the needs of a third of homes in Greater London".

James Smith, chairman of Shell UK, which is part of the construction consortium, said: "The London Array offshore wind farm will make a crucial contribution to the UK's renewable energy targets."

The secretary of state for trade and industry, Alistair Darling, heralded the development's potential contribution to the government's target of a "500 per cent increase in UK renewable energy resources by 2020" with: "Projects such as the London Array, which will be the biggest in the world when completed, and Thanet underline the real progress that is being made."

Environment secretary David Miliband chipped in with: "We expect this announcement will be the first of a number of large-scale offshore wind farms in the UK and will provide real impetus for the continued developments in the offshore renewable energy sector that will benefit generations to come."

The London Array does, however, depend on the construction of an onshore substation. Swale council blocked the planning application for the complex earlier this year amid "local concerns over increased traffic and noise".

The construction consortium lodged an appeal and a hearing is slated for March next year. The Guardian notes, however, that the DTI said "today's conditional consent was a major step forward and is confident that the windfarm will be built by 2011".

Friends of the Earth has given the London Array the thumbs up, but told the government it "must go further" in cutting carbon emissions.

The RSPB also weighed in on the side of wind power after "plans were modified to protect the endangered bird, the red-throated diver". ®

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