World's largest wind farm opens off Kent

A A A

The UK is determined to get out of the "dunce corner" on renewables, Energy Secretary Chris Huhne said today as he officially opened the world's largest offshore wind farm off the UK coast.





The 100-turbine Thanet wind farm off the coast of Kent will produce enough electricity to supply the equivalent of more than 200,000 homes a year, and brings the UK's total power from onshore and offshore wind to more than 5GW - enough to power all the homes in Scotland.



At a ceremony at sea to mark the launch of the new site, Mr Huhne said offshore wind was a key part of meeting the country's commitments to boost renewables, and the Government was focused on moving from the "frankly atrocious record" on green energy it had inherited.



Currently the UK sources just 3% of all its energy from renewables, against a target of 15% by 2020, and is 25th in the league table of 27 EU countries on action on green power.



Offshore wind power was part of ensuring secure, cheap energy supplies in the future, as well as providing jobs, Mr Huhne said.



But concerns were raised about the proportion of jobs created by the offshore wind industry going to British workers, and whether incentives such as £60 million promised for ports development to support the supply chain would survive the forthcoming Government spending review.



About 30% of the 3,500 jobs generated by the manufacture, construction and installation of the wind farm owned by Swedish company Vattenfall went to UK employees.



Mr Huhne said the ports funding was subject to the comprehensive spending review but said it would be foolish not to encourage in every way possible investment in the supply chain, to ensure as much as possible of the manufacture and skills for offshore wind were based in the UK.



"We need to make sure we have both the supply chain and the skills, and we will do what we can to make sure we are as attractive as we can be to investors," he said.



"We do have an awful lot of wind and wave and tidal power and we are determined to have a supply chain to match."



While he said the opening of the Thanet wind farm and the reaching of the 5GW was a landmark for the UK, Mr Huhne said the country had a long way to go, and could easily encourage the industry to deliver 10 times as much wind energy by 2020.



The Energy Secretary's comments came as new research published by Vestas, which made the turbines for the Thanet wind farm, suggested that the UK offshore wind industry could directly provide as many as 34,000 permanent skilled jobs, and another 24,000 jobs in the wider economy.



The tens of thousands of jobs would come from operations and maintenance of wind farms and would be in addition to the temporary construction jobs from installing the energy plants.



But Vestas, which was at the centre of controversy when it closed its onshore turbine factory on the Isle of Wight with the loss of 600 jobs last year, said uncertainties over financial support, local skills shortages and inadequate grid and port infrastructure was putting thousands of the potential jobs at risk.



The company called for clarification on financial support, and targets agreed between Government and industry for 2020 and beyond.



And there should be decisions over which ports will receive funding from the £60 million pledged for developing harbour areas to accommodate new wind farm construction.



Vestas Offshore president Anders Soe-Jensen said: "We need more qualified people to come into this industry, if this industry is going to take off.



"The wind turbines will be there, we can handle that, but we need to get them erected and maintained, so we need people to come into the industry in high level jobs."



And he said: "To build up the entire supply chain will require some assistance from the Government."



But Oystein Loseth, chief executive of Vattenfall, said the UK was the best country in the world to be installing, building and operating offshore wind.



"This project would not have been possible without the British Government's active support and its commitment to renewable energy," he added.



And Maria McCaffery, chief executive of wind industry body RenewableUK, said: "Today's 5GW announcement and the news on September 6 that wind supplied 10% of all electricity to consumers serves to highlight just how mainstream this energy source has become."



She said that each gigawatt of power that was installed was taking less and less time to construct, and with the right Government policies in place, the industry expected to be installing between 3GW and 4GW a year when the next major round of wind farms begin construction.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have previous experience...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015