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Ten years since Swedish energy company Vattenfall erected 100 wind turbines off Kent coast

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A decade ago today, what was the world's largest offshore wind farm officially 'opened' off the coast of Kent.

Swedish energy giant Vattenfall's 100-strong turbine development is now relatively modest in comparison to other monolithic sites across the world, but has become a permanent fixture of the landscape to residents and visitors gazing from the Thanet coast across the North Sea.

The wind farm technicians in Thanet work through the seasons to keep the turbines turning

The project, based 12km from Foreness Point, took more than two years to build and cost a staggering £780 million.

It was not the first investment the Scandinavian company made in Kent, with the Kentish Flats Offshore Wind Farm, north of Whitstable, operating from 2005.

On it's first day of operation, the Thanet Offshore wind farm was set to boost the UK's renewable energy generation by a third.

The 100 turbines have a total capacity of 300 megawatts (MW), powering thousands of homes across the country.

There are 100 turbines on the Thanet wind farm. Photo by Edward Thompson
There are 100 turbines on the Thanet wind farm. Photo by Edward Thompson

The decade-old wind farm covers an area of 35 square kilometres, in water which is around 25 metres deep.

The turbines themselves are 115 metres high and require technicians to go through rigorous training before they can set foot on them.

When Vattenfall started up the turbines in 2010, the majority of the workforce was made up of contractors from abroad.

But over the past 10 years they have steadily grown a team of local turbine technicians, operations staff, and warehouse operatives at the Ramsgate headquarters.

The company is trying to keep its supply chain as local as possible by working with local organisations rather than importing parts from other countries.

How Kent keeps the county's wind turbines turning

Speaking to KentOnline last year, Melanie Rogers, the communications officer at Vattenfall Ramsgate, said it was important to the company to train new staff from the local area.

She said: "When wind farms first arrived in the UK we didn't have experienced staff to run them, so they sent a lot of Danish staff to get it up and running.

"Gradually over the years we've employed new people and they've worked their way up the career ladder.

"And now the young local lads I was talking to about wind turbines are running the show, which is really nice to see."

The turbines are 12 kilometres away from the Thanet coast. Photo by Edward Thompson
The turbines are 12 kilometres away from the Thanet coast. Photo by Edward Thompson

The energy company hoped to boost jobs even further in 2020, by proposing an additional wind farm in Thanet.

Plans included 34 turbines sat 8km from the shore, and with the developments in technology would be capable of generating more power than the existing 100.

But Business secretary Alok Sharma concluded that Vattenfall's prosposal would not be allowed to proceed.

The application stated that the expansion would include an increase of 75 people in their Kent workforce.

Among the reasons given for refusal were a potentially-negative affect on the development of future ports and maritime navigation risk. There was also concern the extension cause problems for ships travelling along the coastal region.

Technicians prepare to go offshore. Photo by Edward Thompson
Technicians prepare to go offshore. Photo by Edward Thompson

Now the energy company has set its sights on a new project - a solar farm in Faversham.

The 66-acre project has been proposed for construction south of the A299 Thanet Way and to the west of Thornden Wood Road, opposite the derelict Share and Coulter pub.

The energy scheme would also share the existing grid connection and onshore infrastructure already utilised by the wind farms located offshore.

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