Fate of second 370MW phase of world's largest offshore wind farm at risk from population of birds
Plans to build the second phase of the world’s largest offshore wind farm could be binned because of thousands of rare birds found unexpectedly near the proposed site in the Thames Estuary.
Richard Rigg, project director of the 1GW London Array offshore wind farm, told BusinessGreen yesterday that the fate of the scheme depends entirely on a population of red-throated divers, raising the prospect that the scheme will end up a third smaller than originally expected.
More than 5,000 were found off northeast Kent between 2002 and 2005 – the same population that was thought to exist in the entire UK.
London Array’s first 630MW phase only received the green light in 2006 after plans were amended to appease the RSPB.
Now the company, backed by E.ON, Dong Energy and Masdar, must tackle further objections from Natural England and RSPB if it is to build the second phase of up to 370MW.
“Until we started doing our initial surveys, I don’t think anyone expected the number of red-throated divers that we found,” said Rigg. “In terms of what was expected to be the population around the UK, we found almost the same number just on this site.”
He said London Array is conducting its own investigations into the habitats and activities of the birds before submitting an application to Natural England.
Rigg said the project needed to secure approval from the group by next year in order to meet its grid connection date.
“We have a grid connection date of October 2015 with National Grid, and on that basis we will need to make a decision next year,” he said.
“The risk to that project is the red-throated diver. The question, quite simply, is what can we build, if anything.”
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