August 21, 2012
Atlantic Array Argument Accelerates
This particular storm has been brewing down here in South West England for quite some time now, but over the last week the debate about the proposed "Atlantic Array" of offshore wind turbines has heated up considerably. Developer RWE npower renewables are currently engaging in the latest round of public consultations about the wind farm project, which in its current form proposes the construction of between 188 and 278 wind turbines, each with a maximum output of between 3.6MW and 5 MW, and thus providing a maximum total capacity of 1.39 GW. As RWE themselves point out the proposed location of the wind farm is:
Around 14 kilometres (km) from closest point to shore on the North Devon coast, 22.5km from closest point to shore the South Wales coast, and 13km from Lundy Island.
That latter figure in particular is one focus for a range of objectors to the proposals. By way of example The National Trust had this to say on their blog last week:
We’ve submitted our response to the consultation this summer on the environmental impacts of Atlantic Array, and will be objecting to the proposals when they come forward to the Planning Inspectorate for decision later in the year.
In their "quotable key messages" The National Trust state (amongst other things) that:
We believe that offshore wind should make an important contribution to the country’s renewable energy targets. We have not objected to a number offshore wind development proposals within sight of the coastline protected by the Trust – for example at Liverpool Bay visible from Formby and at Great Gabbard visible from Orfordness, Suffolk. But we cannot support proposals that would seriously damage the beauty of our coastline.
The locations chosen for Round 3 offshore wind developments have not taken sufficient account of environmental factors and in particular the sensitivity and designations of nearby coast. We would be pleased to work with the relevant authorities to identify areas where offshore windfarms could be located without having serious adverse impacts on sensitive coastlines.
Some of the proposed windfarms under Round 3 are much closer inshore than anticipated in the Government’s Environmental Assessment, and are largely within – rather than outside – the 12 nautical mile limit anticipated for sensitive coasts.
The proposals recently announced for the Atlantic Array in the Bristol Channel are very alarming. The huge array of turbines, each up to 50% taller than the highest point of Lundy, and only 8 – 10 miles from land, will fundamentally change the views from both the North Devon and Gower coastlines. They will dominate the seascape around Lundy and will introduce an industrial scale development to this beautiful, wild coastline.
The National Trust's argument is also being echoed by others. For example on their own web site the Landmark Trust, who run much of Lundy on a day to day basis, put it like this:
Following the latest round of public presentations by RWE Npower, we are continuing to urge people to object to plans to build an enormous windfarm in the Bristol Channel which would dwarf the tiny island and destroy it as a place of refuge for wildlife and visitors. Consultation on the proposed Atlantic Array, the huge windfarm planned just 8 miles off the coast of Lundy, ends on 31st August.
whereas the North Devon Coast Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership say (amongst other things) in their own position statement that:
The AONB Partnership is concerned that the development of the Atlantic Array, by virtue of its size and proximity to the coast, will have a serious detrimental impact on the natural beauty of the North Devon Coast Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and thus will be counter to the primary purpose of designation.
We are concerned that insufficient weight has been given to the potential impact on the protected landscapes that bound the Channel and, in particular, to the impact on ND AONB. Unlike the other sites identified in Round 3 of the offshore windfarm leasing process, the Bristol Channel Zone is almost entirely within the UK 12nm (22km, 13.5miles) limit.
Amongst others voicing a similar message in the blogosphere, local author (and surfing barrister!) Tim Kevan has recently started a group on FaceBook opposing the development, under the banner of "Atlantic Array – No Way!". On his blog Tim hints at his reasons for doing so:
Let me declare an interest: I love Lundy and even went there on my honeymoon only recently. Please don't let it be destroyed by short term commercial interests.
Having said all that, there is an apparently lone voice out there in the cyber-wilderness putting the other side of the argument. On yet another shiny new FaceBook page, under the banner of "Hooray For The Atlantic Array", the following YouTube video is recommended:
It's a trailer for the movie "The Age of Stupid", in which Oscar nominated actor Pete Postlethwaite says (amongst other things) that:
It's like looking through binoculars observing people on a far off beach running around in circles fixated on the small area of sand under their feet as a tsunami races towards the shore.
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