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Planned windfarm would be as big as the Isle of Wight

Plans to build a 417-turbine wind farm taking up an area the size of the Isle of Wight in the Bristol Channel have gone on display.

The public exhibition in Porthcawl yesterday was the first of seven to be held across Wales over the coming days.

Developers RWE npower plan to build up to 417 turbines – each up to 220m high – in waters between South Wales and North Devon as part of their Atlantic Array Offshore Wind Farm project.

The project – which developers said will cost around £3bn to complete – would take between five and six years to build and would cover a 257 square mile patch of the Channel, spanning 25 miles east to west from south of the Gower Peninsula towards the south Pembrokeshire coast.

Turbines will be 10 miles from the Welsh coast at the nearest point – South Gower – and 23 miles off Porthcawl.

The developers claim the turbines would create enough electricity to power 1.1million homes – 90% of Wales’ domestic energy needs – and would cause little or no disruption to those living along the South Wales coast.

The Atlantic Array plans come just two years after proposals for a 30-turbine wind farm at Scarweather Sands, an offshore area three-and-a-half miles off Rest Bay in Porthcawl, were shelved after a seven-year struggle.

Porthcawl mayor Coun Barbara Stubbs said: “I was a member of the community that was opposed to Scarweather Sands and I think generally people will be similarly opposed to this one.”

Another bone of contention is the potential impact the construction process will have on the habitat of harbour porpoises, a marine mammal common in the Bristol Channel.

A spokeswoman for the Porthcawl Environment Trust said: “[Our] spirit and purpose is to protect the harbour porpoise, their natural habitat of Scarweather, and their natural range of the Bristol Channel from noise and disturbance.”

The group says it is concerned that seabed closer to Porthcawl, which has also been leased by RWE npower from the Crown Estate, could also be used for turbines in the future if the project gets the go-ahead.

But Atlantic Array’s project manager Rob Thornhill said: “We have no plans to extend our area. We have conducted two years of surveys on marine mammals.

“We do not expect there to be a large impact on them and we will look to reduce any impact as much as reasonably possible.”

An application for a development consent order will be submitted to the Infrastructure Planning Commission.

The deadline for public feedback is November 10 with more information at www.npower-renewables.com/atlanticarray

A map of the Isle of Wight has been overlayed on this map of the Bristol Channel to show how big the wind farm will be