Plans to build a wind farm the size of the Isle of Wight with as many as 417 turbines in the Bristol Channel have gone on display to the public.
Porthcawl hosted the first of seven public exhibitions to be held across Wales over the coming days, showcasing details of the Atlantic Array Offshore Wind Farm project.
Developers RWE npower plan to build up to 417 turbines – each up to 220m high – in waters between South Wales and North Devon.
The developers say the project, which would cost around £3bn to complete, would take between five and six years to build and would cover a patch of the Channel spanning from south of the Gower Peninsula west towards the south Pembrokeshire coast.
Turbines would be 10 miles from the Welsh coast at the nearest point – South Gower – and 22 miles from Porthcawl.
Developers claim they would create enough electricity to power 1.1m homes – 90% of Wales’ domestic energy needs – and would cause little or no disruption to those living along the South Wales coast.
But as people in Porthcawl got the first glimpse at the proposals yesterday, not everyone was wholly supportive.
James Brown, 64, of Windsor Road, Porthcawl, said: “With the wind in a certain direction, would there be issues of noise?
“That would be my concern, especially as it is untested.
“Also, this is just one company doing this, so even though the electricity would go the grid, I’m not sure any cost benefit would be passed on to customers in Wales.”
The Atlantic Array plans come two years after proposals for a 30-turbine wind farm at Scarweather Sands, an offshore area three-and-a-half miles off Rest Bay, were shelved after a seven-year struggle.
Coun Barbara Stubbs, Mayor of Porthcawl, said: “I was a member of the community that was opposed to Scarweather Sands and I think people will be similarly opposed to this one.
“The cost is going to be enormous and the upheaval it will cause will be massive.”
Another bone of contention is the potential impact on the habitat of harbour porpoises – a marine mammal common in the Bristol Channel.
A spokeswoman for the Porthcawl Environment Trust (Pet) said: “The spirit and purpose of the Pet is to protect the harbour porpoise, their natural habitat of Scarweather and their natural range of the Bristol Channel from noise and disturbance from anthropogenic activities.”
The group say they are 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 got the go-ahead.
Brian Saunders, of Curlew Close, Porthcawl, said: “They say they have no plans to extend towards Porthcawl for now, but what about in the future?
“The area around Scarweather is one of the worst areas to put a wind farm in Wales.”
Project manager Rob Thornhill told the Gazette: “We have no plans to extend our area and we are concentrating on the Atlantic Array area only.
“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.
Should the application prove successful, RWE npower say they hope to start building in 2015, with electricity being fed into the grid as early as 2016.
All of the relevant consultation material and contact details are available at the website npower-renewables.com/atlanticarray
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