Plans for a massive offshore wind farm in the Bristol Channel yesterday received broad support.The proposal would be the world’s largest offshore wind farm, covering an area the size of the Isle of Wight and situated about 13 miles off Ilfracombe and nine miles to the North of Lundy.
Developers Farm Energy said that the £3 billion scheme, which they officially unveiled yesterday, would be capable of providing enough power to serve almost half the households in the South West.
The firm said the 350 turbines would generate a total of 1,500 megawatts of energy in a development to be called Atlantic Array.
Farm Energy director Peter Crone said the landmark project “would see the South West taking a significant step towards a more environmentally sustainable future”.
Farm Energy is behind a similar scheme in the Thames Estuary, London Array, which received offshore consents from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Defra in December 2006.
As yet it has no consent to develop the North Devon site or any lease agreements from the Crown Estate, which owns the seabed.
North Devon MP Nick Harvey said the proposal was “brilliant news” for the area and the whole of the South West: “Being 30 times the size of the controversial land-based proposal at Fullabrook, this can make a really significant contribution to protecting the environment. And being 20 kilometres off the North Devon coast, it has none of the damaging landscape effects or their potential economic impacts.”
Mr Harvey added: “It could prove to be a bonanza for Ilfracombe, which being the nearest port stands a good chance of becoming the home base for the development.
“It could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Ilfracombe to make a reality of the aspirations it has to develop its harbour area.”
Devon County Council welcomed the idea and Coun Humphrey Temperley, the authority’s executive member for economic regeneration, strategic planning and regional affairs, said the development could put North Devon at the forefront of renewable energy production.
“The proposal represents the best opportunity for the local economy in northern Devon in a decade. Ilfracombe, Bideford and Appledore could all share the onshore benefits,” he said.
“The wind farm could provide enough energy for all of Devon and there is potential for tidal power to be added later. North Devon has excellent grid connections via Yelland and Alverdiscott and it would put the area at the forefront of renewable energy production.”
The South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA) said the agency supported the development of renewable energy and environmental technologies.
Claire Gibson, the SWRDA’s director of planning, transport and the environment, said: “This project has the potential to deliver major generating capacity for South West England and we look forward to hearing more about the proposals and how we can secure the maximum economic benefits for the region.”
A spokesman for the Devon Wildlife Trust said: “Climate change is one of the biggest problems facing wildlife. Renewable energy will be an important part of the energy mix in the future. Devon Wildlife Trust supports the use of wind farms in principle, provided that there is no adverse impact on wildlife. This would include bird migration flightpaths and marine habitat from seabed to surface.”
Although Lundy will be the nearest place to the proposed wind farm, nobody from the island was available yesterday to comment. Neither was anyone available from the Landmark Trust, which administers the island on behalf of the National Trust.
The National Trust did not comment on the specific proposal, but referred enquiries to its statement on renewable energy. This supports emissions reduction for renewable energy generation, but does not support wind farms that do not produce a net gain for the environment.
By Mark Clough
18 May 2007