THE first turbine at a £1.3 billion Rampion wind farm has started generating power.

Energy firm E.On announced the landmark development for the 166 turbine off shore site on Monday.

Construction finished eight miles off the coast in September and it is expected to be fully operational next year.

Working at full capacity it will produce enough electricity for around 347,000 homes - the equivalent to around half the homes in Sussex.

The remaining turbines will be turned on one by one over the coming months.

Project director Matthew Swanwick said: “We’re especially proud to have reached this milestone as the first power is generated at Rampion.

“Over the last two years the construction team has worked tirelessly in all weather conditions to complete this remarkable engineering feat.

“Over the coming weeks and months the turbines will one-by-one begin to be turned on and generate power as they are brought online. This process will take us into 2018 to complete.”

It took workers six months to install the 80 metre high turbines after the foundations had been secured in place.

They started in early March with crews on two vessels, the MPI Discovery and MPI Adventure, working tirelessly to get the job done.

The ships have been going to and from Esbjerg in Denmark carrying eight turbines on each journey.

The turbines weigh approximately 200 tonnes each. The ships used giant struts to plant themselves to the seabed for stability before carefully lifting each turbine into position on its foundation pole.

A nacelle, a protective covering which houses the generator and gearbox and three blades, is then fitted to the top of each turbine.

The blades, which are 55 metres in length, are then hoisted and connected one at a time.

Earlier this month Rampion bosses announced plans to set up a £4 million charity fund.

Electricity providers E.On. also laid out plans to open a visitors’ centre in Brighton, near the arches next to the i360, in mid to late 2018.

Its charitable fund will be split in three ways: £3.1 million for projects which benefit the Sussex community; £800,000 on the visitors’ centre; and a £100,000 donation to RNLI stations in the county.

The project grants range from £1,000 to £10,000, with some extending to £50,000.