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The World’s Largest Offshore Wind Farm Just Hit This Milestone

August 17, 2016, 3:14 PM UTC
The London Array, near the U.K. capital, is the world's largest offshore wind farm.
Photo: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg/Getty

The largest planned project on the planet to use wind turbines in the seas to generate energy has hit an important milestone.

This week, an expansion of the Hornsea Project, which will install 540 wind turbines off the coast of Yorkshire in Northeast England, was approved by U.K. ministers. Danish energy company Dong Energy is building the colossal wind farm, which will generate 1.8 gigawatts of energy, or about as much as about two large natural gas or coal plants.

Offshore wind is supposed to deliver 10% of the U.K.’s electricity needs by 2020. The London Array, with 175 massive wind turbines from Siemens, is providing 630 megawatts of electricity directly to London.

Dong Energy’s U.K. Chairman Brent Cheshire said in a release that the company, which just went public, has already spent almost $8 billion (or 6 billion pounds) in the U.K. working on the project. The company is also partly owned by the Danish government and Goldman Sachs.

However, The Guardian points out that Dong Energy hasn’t yet made a financial investment decision in the expansion.

The news illuminates how these coastal clean energy projects are quickly moving forward in countries across Europe while offshore wind is just getting started in the United States. In Europe, over 11 gigawatts of energy are being produced by offshore wind farms. There are 84 offshore wind farms either operating or under construction in the seas around 11 countries in the continent.

Earlier this month, the first wind turbines were installed offshore of Block Island, Rhode Island at the Block Island Wind Farm. This is the first offshore wind farm in the U.S., and was built by Deepwater Wind.

The offshore wind industry in the U.S. has lagged thanks to legal threats, lack of regulatory support, and push back from coastal property owners. The poster child for those problems is Cape Wind, a once planned $2.6 billion project to install wind turbines across 24 square miles off the coast of Nantucket.

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After years of legal battles, including from residents who didn’t want their views spoiled by turbines, the companies that had committed to buy the energy from Cape Wind backed out.

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However, with the Block Island Wind Farm underway, the U.S. offshore wind industry could be about to break out. Several weeks ago, the Massachusetts legislature passed an energy bill that includes the largest state commitment to offshore wind in the U.S. to date.