Mixed reaction to plans for major offshore wind farm off the Gower coast
German firm submit controversial plans for 124 square mile farm which would power 900,000 homes
The company behind controversial plans to position one of the biggest offshore wind farms in the world between Wales and Devon has filed a planning application for the project.
German firm RWE npower renewables says the proposed Atlantic Array project involving 240 turbines each around 700ft tall between Gower and North Devon will cover 124 square miles and could power around 900,000 homes.
Gower Society chairman Malcolm Ridge has said of the proposal: “This will be around 14 miles off south Gower and the view will be, if not industrialised, certainly a distraction from the tranquil and beautiful maritime scene you expect from this part of the world.
“It’s simply too big and is in the wrong place, and could damage tourism on the Gower where people go for the beautiful views.”
However, earlier this year, Gareth Clubb, director of Friends of the Earth Cymru, backed the project saying: “We think it’s a very good scheme and will eventually help Wales be powered by 100% renewables.”
Craig Harwood, Atlantic Array’s project manager, said in-depth surveys had been taken of the ecological effects of the wind farm both onshore and offshore.
He said: “We have engaged closely with statutory conservation bodies and other environmental and local interest groups regarding the detail of these surveys.
“We have also carried out numerous consultation exercises with the local communities to listen to their feedback.
“Atlantic Array, which is a potential multi-billion pound development, could bring numerous and significant opportunities to North Devon, to South Wales and to the wider supply chain.”
Campaign group Slay the Array is bitterly opposed to the scheme, which would see turbines visible from the Devon coast, nine miles to the east and from Gower, 14 miles north.
A spokesman for the group said: “As well as fixing the turbines to the seabed they would trench up to 765 miles of cables, connecting to a 33-acre onshore sub-station via a nine-mile, 100ft wide cable trench.”
Derek Green, general manager of Lundy Island which sits between Swansea and Devon said: “Should this application be accepted it would be an absolute disaster – as though a factory were being built on our doorstep.”
RWE said that up to February 2013, more than £800,000 worth of contracts for the Atlantic Array have been awarded to Welsh-based suppliers.
RWE figures show of the total £16.8m worth of contracts given so far, 4.8% have gone to Wales, 49.2% to the South East and London, 11.5% to Devon, 10.9% to the South West, 0.5% to Scotland, 5.8% to the North West, 0.8% to the Midlands and 2.2% to Yorkshire and the North East.
Last year, Swansea councillors took planning officers’ advice to object to Atlantic Array on the grounds of possible environmental and economic damage to one of the nation’s most famous beauty spots. Neighbouring Carmarthenshire council voted not to object.
But John Steevens, (corr) chairman of Swansea’s Civic Society, said of the plan: “While 240 turbines sited 37 or more kilometres off Mumbles Head may seem a big step into the unknown, the resulting investment of this scale will achieve a significant output of renewable energy for years to come and clearly RWE is also aware of the need to ensure South Wales will benefit from the scheme in terms of the initial construction and future servicing with £800,000 already spent in the region.
“The Civic Society is happy to voice it’s support for the scheme and would encourage RWE to take advantage of Swansea Docks as the nearest significant facility to access the site.
“However it is a regret that RWE found it more convenient for the power feed connection and infrastructure to be on the English side of the Bristol Channel.”
Now RWE has filed its planning application to the Government’s planning inspectorate via its subsidiary Channel Energy, the final decision to grant or refuse planning permission will lie with the Secretary of State.
In one of its ecological surveys RWE says due to the potential risk of injury or disturbance to marine mammals such as harbour porpoise during construction, a special permission (European Protected Species license) may be applied for prior to commencement of any works.