Scaled-back plans for a massive renewable energy scheme off the Westcountry coast are a “ploy” to create the illusion that developers have bowed to public opinion, opponents claim.
Campaign group Friends of the Earth has welcomed the announcement this week that the £3 billion Atlantic Array, an offshore wind farm in the Bristol Channel, was to be halved in size. Developer RWE npower renewables originally intended for 417 turbines, 14km (8.5 miles) off North Devon, providing enough power for up to one million homes.
However, after consultations with those likely to be affected by the scheme and environmental groups, the firm has revised its plan, meaning as few as 188 could be built. Campaign group Slay the Array claims the company has simply increased the turbine height, branding the plans a “disaster” for the tourist industry.
RWE claims the group has got its calculations wrong and insists the surface area and visible impact has been “significantly” reduced, by up to 40%.
Slay the Array spokesman Steve Crowther said: “The capacity remains the same, and they now say they will use either the huge or the massive turbines to achieve it.
“This announcement is a ploy to make it look as though the developers have bowed to public opinion. In fact, they have not reduced the size of the development at all – like the extra consultation they announced in January, this is part of a carefully choreographed PR campaign.”
Robert Thornhill, development manager for the Atlantic Array Offshore Wind Farm said the sizes of turbine under consideration had not changed, but claimed the maximum number would now be 278. He said the company had “reduced the horizontal view of the wind farm from the closest points of North Devon by approximately 40%”.
“We have also reduced the wind farm site area by almost a third, from 414km squared to 238km squared,” he added.
Slay the Array also claims tourism, which brings a quarter of a billion pounds a year to the area and accounts for 17% of employment, is under threat.
RWE expects to apply for consent to progress from the Planning Inspectorate by the end of the year and is planning a second consultation with residents in North Devon and south Wales.