NHS England sending anorexic patients to Scotland for treatment.


Mental health experts voice concern over growing trend and say it could increase vulnerable patients’ chances of dying

NHS hospital
The NHS in England has far too few beds to cope with rising numbers of eating disorders, doctors say.

The NHS in England is sending patients who are seriously ill with eating disorders to Scotland for treatment because chronic bed shortages mean they cannot be cared for in England.

Vulnerable patients, mainly teenagers and young adults, are being taken hundreds of miles from their homes in order to receive residential care in Glasgow and near Edinburgh.

Mental health experts voiced deep concern about the trend and said it could damage patients’ chances of recovery, increase their sense of isolation through the separation from their families and even increase their risk of dying.

“I’ve seen a rise in calls from people saying their children have been sent far away, miles away, to be looked after because there are either no services nearby or they are full”, said Jane Smith, chief executive of Anorexia and Bulimia Care. “This is a life-threatening situation for young people. People are in inpatient care because they are at risk of dying. They are in a very fragile, risky state.”

Rebecca Doidge, 20, from St Albans in Hertfordshire, spent six months in the Priory private hospital in Glasgow earlier this year because she was desperate for treatment and could not find anywhere else. The distance had negative side-effects, she said.

Despite being well looked after there, “being sent so far away does compromise care”, she said. “The outcomes are going to be better if you can stay near home. It’s really hard to integrate back home or go to another environment when discharged if you are in a different country. It makes communication between those treating you in hospital and those at home difficult.”

During her stay in the Priory, which has 25-30 beds, “about seven of the people there were from Hertfordshire,” she said. “The number of English people there massively outnumbered Scots.”

Anup Vyas’s stepdaughter has been receiving treatment for a rare eating disorder in Huntercombe private hospital in Livingston, near Edinburgh, since February. After previous stints in units in Watford, London and Colchester in Essex, the 17-year-old’s condition is so serious that “now she is basically being kept alive in Scotland”, said Vyas.

“NHS England acknowledge that her being so far away is not ideal. Her brothers haven’t visited her since June and no friends have gone up. Most people in the unit are from England, especially the north of England – places like York and Manchester.” The family’s home is in Hemel Hempstead, 350 miles from Livingston.

“It is clearly unacceptable for people to be sent hundreds of miles away for care at a time when they need the support of friends and family the most”, he said. “That’s why in April we committed to a national ambition to eliminate inappropriate out-of-area placements by 2020-21.” Ministers had also earmarked £150m for enhanced services in community settings to help ensure that mental health problems in young people were tackled before their health wosens, he said.

NHS England, despite its professed commitment to openness, refused to say how many patients from England were receiving treatment for eating disorders in Scotland. Expanding the supply of specialist beds to treat people with those conditions would take time, it said.

“It’s extremely distressing for parents to have a child who is so unwell that they require inpatient care, and it’s even worse when they can’t easily visit their child because of long travel distances”, said Sarah Brennan, chief executive of Young Minds. “For many young people the distance from family and friends is one of their biggest fears when they are hospitalised. Being separated from loved ones doesn’t help with recovery and makes the stress of hospitalisation worse.”

 Dr Jon Goldin, a consultant psychiatrist in London specialising in children and adolescents, said he had heard of patients being moved long distances. “But it shouldn’t be happening,” he said. “It’s a concern. Patients should be treated nearby and should be in contact with family. They need support and it’s much harder to get that when families have to travel long distances.

“Part of their recovery may involve therapy with their family, especially for children aged 14 and under.”, said Goldin, who is also a spokesman for the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

More young people were developing eating disorders, he said. Genetic factors, personality factors and socio-cultural factors, such as images in the media of models “which glamorise thinness” are among the many reasons for the trend, Goldin said.

A spokeswoman for the Priory hospital in Glasgow said it took patients from all over the UK. “The Priory hospital in Glasgow has a reputation for providing some of the highest standards of mental healthcare in the country, and has been given a ‘very good’ rating by our regulator, Healthcare Improvement Scotland, for staffing, management, information to patients, and the environment it offers those we care for. As such, we support patients from across the UK and overseas.”

A spokeswoman for NHS England said: “The NHS recently laid out very clear plans to expand staff and services for specialist eating disorders and other mental health problems, in order to tackle and eliminate distant out-of-area placements. Transformation won’t happen overnight but work is under way to improve services for everyone and to make sure care is available at home or as close to home as possible when a patient needs more intensive therapy.

“To help achieve this, the government has allocated a cumulative £1.4bn to children and young people’s mental health services over the next five years, and the new waiting time for eating disorder patients will ensure patients get better care more quickly.”

World’s largest tidal energy power plant (269 turbines) to begin construction in Scotland


Scotland coast

When you think about it, it’s really Moon power!

The MeyGen tidal project in Scotland will be the largest tidal power plant in the world once operational. Atlantis, the Australian company that is building it has just received the green light from the government and construction should begin this month. The tidal project will be located in an area that lies in the channel (“Inner Sound”) between the island of Stroma and the north easterly tip of the Scottish mainland, encompassing almost 3.5 square-km of fast flowing water.When MeyGen is fully operational, it should have 269 turbines that produce 398MW of clean energy, generating enough electricity to power 175,000 Scottish homes.

Here’s a map showing where the turbines will be:

 

There are currently two suppliers working to make the turbines, and they both have deployed 1MW pre-production prototypes. The turbines used in the actual project should be a little bigger based on my back-of-the-envelope math (if the capacity number is 400MW and the number of turbines is 269, each turbine should have a capacity of about 1.48MW).

Atlantis has raised USD $83 million to finance the first phase of the project, which will be the installation of 4 1.5MW turbines in Scotland’s Pentland Firth. The demonstration phase is planned to scale up to 86MW. The company expects the first electrons to be delivered to the power grid in 2016, and to have about 60 turbines installed and delivering power by 2020.

This is an interesting project, because it’ll help show if tidal power can be more competitive than other forms of wave power with the juggernaut that is solar power, and to a lesser extent, wind power.

Test ‘may predict altitude sickness’


Mountaineers in the French Alps

Scientists say they have developed a way of predicting who will develop altitude sickness.

The condition, otherwise known as acute mountain sickness, occurs when people have difficulty adapting to low oxygen levels at high altitude.

Most cases are mild – but in rare cases there can be a potentially fatal build-up of fluid on the brain and lungs.

Altitude sickness often affects skiers and mountaineers.

It affects people only when they go above 8,000ft (2,500m).

Around 30% experience a mild form of the condition. Between 1%-2% develop the more severe form of the disease.

It is not possible to get altitude sickness in the UK because the highest mountain – Ben Nevis in Scotland – is only 4,406ft (1,344m) high.

The condition usually causes relatively mild symptoms such as headaches, nausea and dizziness. But it can in rare cases cause fluid to build up on the lungs or brain.

Current advice is to aim to acclimatise slowly to higher altitudes to give the body a chance to adapt.

Drugs which can reduce the severity of symptoms are also available, but can have side-effects.

Ultrasound check

Details of the new test are being presented to the EuroEcho-Imaging conference in Istanbul.

The researchers looked at how the heart responds to hypoxia – low oxygen levels.

They studied cardiovascular function, using non-invasive, ultrasound-based techniques, in 34 healthy volunteers once at sea level and again after going by cable car up Aiguille de Midi, a mountain in the French Alps, to a height of 12,600 ft (3,842m).

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An increasing number of people of all ages go to high altitude, mainly for recreational purposes but also for working without being conscious of the potential risks”

Dr Rosa Maria Bruno, Researcher

Around a third of them had experienced severe altitude sickness previously.

Participants had oxygen saturation levels monitored and had an ultrasound check of their heart function, using a portable device, after four hours on the mountain.

After 24 hours at high altitude, 13 out of 34 volunteers developed moderate to severe symptoms.

They had lower oxygen saturation levels and the ultrasound showed poorer function in the systolic (pumping) ability in the right ventricle.

The changes were not seen in people who did not display altitude sickness symptoms.

Susceptibility

Dr Rosa Maria Bruno, who led the study, said: “If these results are confirmed by larger studies, it will be possible to identify vulnerable individuals and suggest particular behaviours and drugs.

“Thus we can limit drug use (and side-effects) only to those who will really need them, and give them special advice and recommendations such as avoiding high altitudes or spending more time ascending to allow time for acclimatisation.”

She added: “At the moment we don’t know exactly why some people can adapt successfully to high altitude and other people cannot, or how to identify susceptible individuals in whom preventative strategies may be applied.

“This can be an important problem since an increasing number of people of all ages go to high altitude, mainly for recreational purposes but also for working without being conscious of the potential risks.”

The test can now only be done once people have spent at least four hours at high altitude but the team hope it can be developed so it can work sooner.

Plastic fibre a ‘major pollutant’


Tiny pieces of plastic and man-made fibres are causing contamination of the world’s oceans and beaches, the journal Science has reported.

Even remote and apparently pristine layers of sand and mud are now composed partly of this microscopic rubbish, broken down from discarded waste.

Plastic bottles on a beach, Science

This is the first assessment of plastic fragments accumulating in sediments and in the water column itself.

It is not yet known what the long term effects of this pollution may be.

A team led by scientists at the universities of Plymouth and Southampton took samples from 17 beaches and estuaries around the UK, and analysed particles which did not appear to be natural.

The researchers found that most samples included evidence of a range of plastics or polymers including nylon, polyester and acrylic.

 

It suggests to us that the problem is really quite ubiquitous

They also found that when creatures such as lugworms and barnacles fed on the sediments, the plastics turned up inside their bodies within a few days.

To test whether this contamination was getting worse, the scientists analysed plankton samples taken from survey ships between Scotland and Iceland since the 1960s – and found that the plastic content had increased significantly over time.

Toxic chemicals

Because the team only sampled particles which looked different from natural sediments, it is believed that the true level of plastic contamination could be much higher.

The lead author of the study, Dr Richard Thompson, said: “Given the durability of plastics and the disposable nature of many plastic items, this type of contamination is likely to increase.

 

Rocket casing on a beach, Thompson/Science

This rocket casing is one of the more unusual pieces of litter on the world’s beaches

“Our team is now working to identify the possible environmental consequences of this new form of contamination.”

One concern is that toxic chemicals could attach themselves to the particles which would then help to spread them up the food chain.

That research is for the future, but this study suggests that practically everything really is made of plastic these days – even the oceans.

“We’ve found this microscopic plastic material at all of the sites we’ve examined,” Dr Thompson said.

“Interestingly, the abundance is reasonably consistent. So, it suggests to us that the problem is really quite ubiquitous.”

Pushy bacteria could shed light on tumour growth.


Bacteria can colonize a vast number of surfaces in everyday life, from water pipes to teeth, spreading harmful disease in the process. Scientists had assumed that the growth of such colonies relies on bacteria being able to propel themselves towards sources of food, but a group of physicists in Scotland has now shown that colonies expand using nothing more than the simple mechanical repulsion between bacteria that takes place when they grow and bump into one another. This insight could improve our understanding of antibiotic resistance, say the researchers, and may even help in the fight against cancer.

Simulations of colonies containing about 100,000 cells showing circular and branched growth

Scientists use computer models of bacterial colonies to better understand a number of key characteristics of these ubiquitous structures. One parameter of great interest is a colony’s speed of growth because this determines how quickly disease can spread. Another important characteristic is a colony’s shape. Bacteria reproduce rapidly, which increases the possibility that they will mutate and acquire resistance to antibiotics. But reproduction requires nutrition and it is possible that the newly formed bacterium will be beaten by neighbouring cells in the race to reach the nutrients that are more abundant on the edge of the colony. The shape of the colony can dictate the outcome of that race.

According to existing models, which are based on a theory developed by biologist Ronald Fisher and mathematician Andrey Kolmogorov in the 1930s, the growth rate and shape of bacterial colonies depend on both a Brownian-motion-like diffusion of nutrients and a random but active motion on the part of the bacteria. However, these models fail to describe the behaviour of colonies growing on a surface, where bacteria are often unable to propel themselves.

Bacteria as ‘active matter’

In the latest work, Fred Farrell and colleagues at the University of Edinburgh, working with Oskar Hallatschek of the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen, Germany, set out to establish the importance of mechanical forces in the growth of dense colonies of bacteria on solid substrates. Part of a growing number of physicists investigating “active matter” that exists far from thermal equilibrium, the team was also motivated by recent research showing that mechanical pressure can affect the growth and death rate of cells, including cancer cells.

The researchers model the evolution of non-self-propelling single-celled bacteria, starting with a single cell or a row of cells, which are surrounded by nutrients that they gradually deplete to grow and divide. Each bacterium is considered to be an elastic rod that grows along its length and which splits into two when it reaches a certain size. As it expands, the bacterium pushes against its nearest neighbours, creating movement by virtue of the elastic force between it and them.

The researchers found that this mechanical force pushes the colony outwards, allowing it to overcome surface friction. An increase in the strength of the pushing force leads to a faster growing colony. They also discovered that the shape the colony takes on as it expands depends on the ratio of the cells’ growth rate to the amount of nutrients available. When nutrition levels are low the colony forms branches to find more food, whereas with bountiful supplies the colony becomes circular, as is observed experimentally.

No diffusion needed

Contrary to the Fisher–Kolmogorov models, this behaviour was achieved without the diffusion of the bacteria and it also relied little on diffusion of the nutrients. Farrell’s colleague Bartek Waclaw points out that the results from the new model could be tested experimentally by confining a bacterial colony to 2D inside a microfluidic array and then imaging it to see how quickly it grows. Whereas the older models predict that the growth should be linear, the new one says it should either be slower than linear or exponential.

Having only two dimensions, however, the model’s utility will be limited, according to Waclaw. Although he adds that a basic 3D extension of the model does reproduce the main results. He explains that newly formed bacterial colonies can exist briefly as a single layer of cells, but colonies quickly build up successive layers. In addition, he points out, many bacteria exchange chemicals to communicate with each other and such signals are not incorporated in the current model. He says, however, that the model could mimic what happens at the early stages of the skin-cancer melanoma, which, he explains, starts out as an essentially flat colony of cells.

Looking at mutations

Waclaw adds that the group is now working on an extended version of the model that allows them to investigate directly how the mechanical properties of bacteria affect the rate of production of potentially antibiotic-resistant mutations. To do so the researchers assume that a certain fraction of the bacteria are mutant varieties and that these cells can grow a little faster than the rest. They then calculate the probability that a drug-resistant mutant cell can reach the nutrients ahead of its rivals and form a critical mass of cells.

A long-term aim of this research, says Waclaw, is to develop drugs that can control the mechanical properties of cells to lower the odds of those cells acquiring antibiotic resistance. “This is just a hypothesis,” he cautions, “but the ultimate hope is that it will one day be possible to modify mechanical interactions by applying a drug.”

All children offered flu nasal spray


  • Flu is a respiratory illness linked to infection by the influenza virus.
  • Symptoms usually include headache, fever, cough, sore throat, aching muscles and joints.
  • Influenza occurs most often in winter and usually peaks between December and March.
  • The virus was first identified in 1933.
  • There are two main types that cause infection: influenza A and influenza B
  • New strains of the virus are constantly emerging, which is why the flu vaccine should be given each year.

A flu vaccine nasal spray is being offered to every two and three-year-old in Scotland for the first time.

Previously, only children in “at risk” groups were offered the protection.

Scotland’s largest ever immunisation programme was launched by First Minister Alex Salmond, who received the vaccine in a surgery in Aberdeenshire.

He said that as an asthmatic, he gets the injection every year and urged other eligible Scots to get protected before the winter.

A fifth of the Scottish population will be offered a free flu vaccine, including people aged over 65 and those with conditions that put them at greater risk.

For the first time, all two and three-year-olds – about 120,000 children – will be offered the vaccine, as well as 100,000 primary school pupils in health board areas which are taking part in a pilot programme.

The programme will be rolled out to eventually see about one million children aged between two and 17 have the chance to be immunised towards the end of 2015.

The vaccine will take the form of a nasal spray rather than an injection.

Scotland’s senior medical officer said the spray, which is being phased in this autumn and rolled out over the next two years, was more effective in children than injections, as well as simpler to administer.

Speaking after receiving his own vaccine, Mr Salmond said it was better to be safe than sorry.

“As an asthmatic, I get my flu vaccination every year to make sure I’m protected and ready for the winter and I’m delighted to launch this national campaign,” he said.

“It is hugely successful and the existing programme has seen 2,000 fewer hospitalisations and 25,000 fewer GP consultations.

“For the first time this winter we are taking extra precautions to protect families by making sure children are also offered this vital vaccine.”

Senior medical officer Dr Nicola Steedman said every year she sees examples of how devastating flu can be.

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She added: “For those with existing health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart or liver problems, flu can result in serious complications.

“Furthermore, those who are pregnant or over 65 are also at increased risk of flu and its complications and should be vaccinated to help protect against flu, even if they currently feel healthy and fit.

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“Flu can also be very serious for children, particularly the youngest ones who have little or no immunity to the infection, which is why we are rolling out the new childhood flu immunisation programme.”

All two and three-year-olds in England and Wales will be also offered the vaccine this winter. In Wales, children aged 11 to 12 will also be eligible, while children aged between two and 10 in certain areas of England will be offered protection.

Source: BBC

Babies to be offered vomiting bug vaccine.


An extra vaccination is to be offered to babies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to protect them against a vomiting and diarrhoea bug.

Rotavirus infection is the most common cause of gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrhoea) in children under five._68442595_oralvaccine

Nearly every child currently gets the condition by the time they are five.

But experts hope the oral vaccine, given to babies at two and three months old, will halve the number of cases seen annually.

The bug currently accounts for 130,000 visits to the GP and 13,000 hospital visits for dehydration every year.

Scotland introduced a rotavirus vaccine in May.

‘Protect your baby’

Dr Paul Cosford, director for health protection and medical director at Public Health England, said: “Rotavirus is a highly infectious and unpleasant illness that affects thousands of young children each year.

Continue reading the main story

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The best way to protect your baby from catching rotavirus is to get them vaccinated”

Dr Paul Cosford,Public Health England

“While most recover within a few days, nearly one in five will need to see their doctor, and one in 10 will end up in hospital as a result.”

He added: “Although good hygiene measures can help prevent spread of the disease, the best way to protect your baby from catching rotavirus is to get them vaccinated.

“The new vaccine will provide protection to those young babies who are most vulnerable to complications arising from rotavirus.

“From now on, parents will be offered this protection alongside their baby’s other childhood vaccinations.”

Further new vaccinations against shingles, meningococcal C and flu will be introduced later this year.

Source: BBC

Public Health England to launch largest cancer database


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The world’s largest database of cancer patients is being set up in England in an attempt to revolutionise care, Public Health England has announced.

It will collate all the available data on each of the 350,000 new tumours detected in the country each year.

The aim is to use the register to help usher in an era of “personalised medicine” that will see treatments matched to the exact type of cancer a patient has.

Experts said it was “great news”.

The old definitions of cancer – breast, prostate, lung – are crumbling.

Cancer starts with a mutation that turns a normal cell into one that divides uncontrollably and becomes a tumour. However, huge numbers of mutations can result in cancer and different mutations need different treatments.

Research into the genetics of breast cancer means it is now thought of as at least 10 completely separate diseases, each with a different life expectancy and needing a different treatment.

The national register will use data from patients at every acute NHS trust as well 11 million historical records.

Continue reading the main story

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It’ll be easier and quicker to further cancer research, and will speed up work to deliver personalised cancer medicine to patients in the future.”

Emma GreenwoodCancer Research UK

It will eventually track how each sub-type of cancer responds to treatment, which will inform treatment for future patients.

‘Fundamental change’

Jem Rashbass, national director of disease registration at Public Health England, said: “Cancer-registry modernisation in England is about to deliver the most comprehensive, detailed and rich clinical dataset on cancer patients anywhere in the world.”

He told the BBC: “This will fundamentally change the way we diagnose and treat cancer.

“In five years we’ll be sequencing cancers and using therapies targeted to it.”

The service will also exchange information with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which have their own registers.

The Department of Health has already committed £100m to sequence the entire genetic code of 100,000 patients with cancer and rare diseases in order to accelerate progress in personalised medicine.

Emma Greenwood, Cancer Research UK’s head of policy development, said: “It’s great news that this national database has been set up.

“It means we have all the UK’s cancer information in one place, making us well equipped to provide the highest quality care for every cancer patient.

“It’ll be easier and quicker to further cancer research, and will speed up work to deliver personalised cancer medicine to patients in the future.”

Source: BBC

‘Star Trek’ Prototype Tractor Beam Developed By Scientists.


 

r-STARTREKTRACTORBEAM-large570

It may still be a few years away from practical use, but scientists have created a real tractor beam, like the ones featured in the “Star TrekTV series and movies.

Simply put, this technology utilizes a beam of light to attract objects, according to theUniversity of St. Andrews in Scotland. In “Star Trek,” tractor beams were often used to pull spaceships and other objects closer to the focal point of the light source attached to another ship.

Researchers at St. Andrews and the Institute of Scientific Instruments, or ISI, in the Czech Republic have figured out a way of generating an optical field that can reverse the radiation pressure of light.

German astronomer Johannes Kepler noticed in 1619 that comet tails point away from the sun, a radiation force that the St. Andrews and ISI team hoped to reverse.

According to the BBC, Pavel Zemanek of ISI said, “The whole team have spent a number of years investigating various configurations of particles delivery by light. I am proud our results were recognised in this very competitive environment and I am looking forward to new experiments and applications. It is a very exciting time.”

So far, based on their research findings published in Nature Photonics, the team is able to move tiny particles, on a microscopic level.

Team leader Tomas Cizmar, of the St. Andrews School of Medicine, said the new technology has great potential.

“The practical applications could be very great, very exciting,” Cizmar told the BBC. “The tractor beam is very selective in the properties of the particles it acts on, so you could pick up specific particles in a mixture. Eventually, this could be used to separate white blood cells, for example.”

While the researchers hope this tractor beam technology will be useful in the medical field, they don’t anticipate it can ever be used to capture and haul large objects like spaceships.

“Unfortunately, there is a transfer of energy. On a microscopic scale, that is OK, but on a macro scale, it would cause huge problems,” said Cizmar.

“It would result in a massive amount of heating of an object, like a space shuttle. So trapping a spaceship is out of the question.”

Tractor beam concepts have been experimented with before.

In 2011, a NASA-funded study examined how special laser beams might be used to capture and gather sample materials on unmanned, robotic space missions,Space.com reported.

“Though a mainstay in science fiction, and ‘Star Trek’ in particular, laser-based trapping isn’t fanciful or beyond current technological know-how,” Paul Stysley of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said at the time.

And in 2012, New York University physicists David Ruffner and David Grier developed a way to use special lasers, called Bessel beams, to direct light in concentric circles at an object — albeit a 1.5-micrometer silica sphere — and the beams could then reconstruct themselves on opposite sides of the sphere, making it possible to pull the object back to the source of the beams.

The only problem with this theory is that, like the current tests by the scientists at St. Andrews and ISI, applying these techniques to move very large objects isn’t practical yet — the huge energy requirements to make it work would destroy the objects trying to be pulled.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com

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Scotland plans world’s largest offshore wind farm.


morayfirthdrrichardmurrayA Spanish-Portuguese-Chinese company has submitted plans for an offshore wind farm in northern Scotland that would be the world’s largest.

The £4.5 billion ($7.2 billion) 115-square mile facility would have 339 turbines with a generating capacity of 1.5 gigawatts – about the same as a large nuclear power station, and enough to power at least 800,000 homes, or about 40 percent of the country’s households, the Guardian reports.

It’s Windy Up There: The Moray Firth juts into northeast Scotland from the North Sea, near Inverness.

A company called Moray Offshore Renewables hopes to start producing electricity from the project by 2018 some 12 miles off the coast in the Moray Firth, a wide inlet of the North Sea near Inverness.  The project is separate from the proposed offshore wind farm in nearby Aberdeenshire opposed by developer Donald Trump, who’s worried it will spoil the views from a luxury golf resort that he’s building.

Moray Offshore Renewables is a joint venture between Spanish oil company Repsol and Portuguese power company Energias de Portugal. China’s stated-owned Three Gorges Corp. recently acquired 21 percent of EDP from the Portuguese government. Three Gorges led the construction of China’s environmentally destructive Three Gorges Dam – the world’s largest hydroelectric plant.

Moray must first receive planning permission, which is not a certainty.

If the scheme goes as planned, it would be larger than the London Array, 1-gigawatt off shore wind farm under construction in the Thames Estuary which if completed by the target year 2015 would be the world’s largest.

Source: Smart Planet.