Prime Minister David Cameron talked up the UK's green investment credentials at the inauguration of the London Array today

PM opens world's largest offshore wind farm

The world’s largest offshore wind farm was officially opened today by Prime Minister David Cameron.

The London Array in the outer Thames Estuary reached full capacity in April this year with the commissioning of its 175th and final turbine, but Cameron took the opportunity to talk up the UK’s investment credentials describing the facility as a "big win for Britain" that proves the country is capable of delivering large-scale projects.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony the Prime Minister said that when it comes to green energy, Britain has "one of the clearest, most predictable investment climates", and that the government plans to add to that by completing the Energy Bill later this year.

Speaking at the Turner Contemporary art gallery in Margate, Kent, he said: "Today is very simple. It's a triple win.

"First of all it's a huge win for Kent. This project has been built by some of the bravest seamen, some of the most talented engineers, some of the hardest workers, and it's going to continue to bring benefits to people in Kent for many, many years to come.

"The second thing that it's a big win for is renewable energy. Sometimes people wonder, 'Can you really have renewable energy projects at scale?'.

"What the London Array shows; powering half a million homes, the biggest offshore wind farm anywhere in the world; it absolutely shows that you can do scale renewables and you can do them right here in Britain.

"And that leads me to the third and, I think, the most important win of all, and it's a very big win for Britain. Sometimes people wonder, 'Can we in the West do big projects any more? Can we do the big investments? Isn't that all happening somewhere else in the east and south of our world?'.

"If you look at the UK you can see we can do big projects. Not only did we do a superb Olympics, but under London Crossrail is the biggest construction project anywhere in Europe.

"Not far from here is London Gateway, which is the biggest port construction taking place anywhere in Europe, and here you have the biggest offshore construction anywhere in the world. I think this demonstrates Britain is a great place to invest."

The London Array is built around 20km off the coasts of Kent and Essex and it is predicted that it will lead to a cut in CO2 emissions of more than 900,000 tonnes a year.

Its turbines export power to the national grid and could produce enough green electricity to power nearly half a million homes a year.

Maria McCaffery, chief executive of industry body RenewableUK, said: "We're about to witness a massive expansion in the number of people we employ in the wind industry onshore and offshore, from about 12,000 now to 76,000 by the dawn of the next decade, as long as government remains supportive. Today Mr Cameron has assured us that it will.

"Such a strong signal from the very top of our political establishment will help to put an end to the siren calls from the naysayers who've failed to appreciate the scale of the opportunity Britain has here. We need to maintain our pole position in offshore wind energy to reap the full economic and environmental benefits."

The project’s consortium partners include offshore wind farm developers Dong Energy (50 per cent), power and gas firm E.On (30 per cent) and Abu Dhabi renewable energy firm Masdar (20 per cent).

Brent Cheshire, UK chairman of Dong Energy, said London Array marks a "real milestone" towards cutting the cost of offshore wind.

"As projects get even bigger and move further offshore, we must continue to harvest the advantages of scale to bring down the costs," he said.

Tony Cocker, chief executive officer of E.On UK, said: "We firmly believe that electricity from renewable sources has a vital part to play in helping us deliver energy in a way that is sustainable, affordable and secure."

Jenny Banks, energy and climate change specialist at WWF-UK, said: "The UK is ideally suited to becoming a world leader in this technology with a recent report showing that offshore wind could boost the UK economy by £20bn.

“It's important that the government puts the right policies in place to send clear signals to companies such as Siemens, which wants to invest in an offshore wind manufacturing plant in Hull, that the UK is open for business."

Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said: "The London Array shows what the UK can potentially achieve with renewable energy. We’re now world leaders in an industry that some wrongly dismissed in the past as a nice-to-have.

“But if offshore wind is to continue to provide jobs and economic growth for the UK and reach price parity with nuclear by the 2020s, David Cameron needs to do more than ribbon-cut. He needs to give the sector long-term certainty by agreeing to cut carbon completely from our electricity sector.”

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