Orbital View: The World's Largest Offshore Windfarm

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

It kinda looks like a pin cushion from this perspective:

A photo posted by Planet Labs (@planetlabs) on

Two years ago, Michael Carlowicz captioned similar images of the London Array for NASA’s Earth Observatory:

Twenty kilometers (12 miles) from England’s Kent and Essex coasts, the world’s largest offshore wind farm has started harvesting the breezes over the sea. Located in the Thames Estuary, where the River Thames meets the North Sea, the London Array has a maximum generating power of 630 megawatts (MW), enough to supply as many as 500,000 homes.

… [T]he London Array includes 175 wind turbines aligned to the prevailing southwest wind and spread out across 100 square kilometers (40 square miles). Each turbine stands 650 to 1,200 meters apart (2,100 to 3,900 feet) and 147 meters (482 feet) tall. Each is connected by cables buried in the seafloor, and power is transmitted to two substations offshore and to an onshore station at Cleve Hill.

[...] The site was chosen because of its proximity to onshore electric power infrastructure and because it stays out of the main shipping lanes through the area. Promoters of the London Array project assert that it will reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by 900,000 tons, equal to the emissions of 300,000 automobiles. Critics of the project and its second phase are concerned that the wind farm will decimate the population of red-throated divers and other bird species.

This wider image shows how the sea is “discolored by light tan sediment—spring runoff washed out by the Thames” (the box is where the array is located):


(See all Orbital Views here)