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Vattenfall Barrels Into UK Wind Past Big Oil

Swedish electric utility Vattenfall said today that it has acquired what will be one of the largest offshore wind farms in Britain, the Thanet Offshore Wind project, for 35 million pounds ($55 million). Vattenfall, which is owned by the Swedish government, bought the 300-megawatt Thanet project from Christofferson Robb & Co., a money management fund. The wind farm is expected to be operational by the end of 2009.

But Vattenfall isn’t stopping with Thanet, which the company said will cost $1.23 billion to finish building. The company said today that it’s also teaming up with ScottishPower Renewables to make joint bids on the third round of offshore wind farm development in the UK. Vattenfall and ScottishPower Renewables, part of Spain’s Iberdrola, said they plan to build 6,000 megawatts of installed wind power capacity, enough to power four million homes by 2020.

The announcements are a big boost for the UK wind market, which suffered a blow last week when London-based oil firm BP said it was shifting its wind investments to the U.S., pulling out of developments in the UK, China, India and Turkey.

The UK wind market also took a hit earlier this year when another oil company, the Netherland’s Royal Dutch Shell, sold its stake in the giant London Array project, which is expected to be the largest offshore wind farm in the world once complete. The London Array is being designed to come in at more than three times the size of Thanet, generating 1 gigawatt of wind power.

The deal for Thanet and the partnership with ScottishPower Renewables is just the latest move by Vattenfall in the UK. The company, which already owns the 90 MW Kentish Flats offshore wind farm off the coast of southeast England, earlier this year acquired the UK wind power companies AMEC Wind Energy and Eclipse Energy.

The company also has investments in carbon capture and storage, and power generation from biofuel and waste. Vattenfall started operating one of the world’s first coal-fired power plants equipped with CCS technology in September, switching on its 30 MW Schwarze Pumpe pilot plant in Germany.

The company said it’s aiming to boost its overall wind power production to 50 terawatts by the year 2030, up from 1.5 TW today. Vattenfall said applications for the third round of tenders for offshore wind projects in the UK are scheduled to be submitted to the Crown Estate by the beginning of March.