The outcome of a public consultation about plans to build a wind farm the size of the Isle of Wight in the Bristol Channel were revealed yesterday.
A public exhibition was held in Porthcawl, the first of seven across Wales, to discuss developer RWE npower’s 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 report was produced by RWE npower to explain how public feedback is being considered.
The main concerns raised by the 721 respondents was the visual impact from land with 31% flagging this as an issue.
The wind farm’s potential impact on birds was raised by 18% and impact on marine animals by 16%.
Other concerns were impact on tourism, concern for the Lundy marina conservation zone, potential impact on shipping safety, disturbance of fish and shellfish and the impact on surfing.
The project – which developers said will cost around £3bn to complete – would take between five and six years to build.
Turbines would be 10 miles from the Welsh coast at the nearest point – South Gower – and 23 miles off Porthcawl.
Caroline Vaughan, of Porthcawl Civic Trust, said: “I have massive concerns that the Atlantic Array will kill, maim and injure the large numbers of dolphins, porpoises and seals we have in the Bristol Channel.
“The construction phase will involve pile driving into the sea bed, an incredibly noisy process, more than enough to blow the ear drums of these creatures and therefore kill them as they are hearing-dependant for their survival.
“Porthcawl Environment Trust is still pursuing the matter of incorrect transposition of the European Habitats Directive into UK law, the law is supposed to give protection to marine mammals.”
Porthcawl councillor Sean Aspey said he was not opposed to wind farms in general but believed this project would have too many negative consequences.
He said: “Green energy is of course a good thing, but in terms of how it will end up, I have serious concerns.
“I feel 100% sure this is going to disturb our marine environment and affect our wave pattern.”
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.
A statement from the Porthcawl Environment Trust (PET) said: “In our opinion a wind farm would have a deleterious effect on the wellbeing of the harbour porpoise.
“It is a breeding ground for the mammal and the species and habitat is highly protected in its natural range. It is the duty of PET to ensure that the rules of the law are adhered to.”
Robert Thornhill, development manager for the Atlantic Array offshore wind farm, said: “All feedback we receive is essential to the wind farm development process and will be considered as work on the proposal progresses.”