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Offshore windfarm ‘could damage Gower coast’s fragile ecosystem’  

Credit:  Robin Turner, WalesOnline | Nov 12 2012 | www.walesonline.co.uk ~~

A massive offshore windfarm could damage marine life and ruin one of Wales’ most beautiful coastal landscapes, campaigners have warned.

The £3bn Atlantic Array wind farm between Cornwall and Swansea Bay would see around 250 turbines erected between Lundy Island and Gower by Swindon-based RWE npower renewables.

Over an area the size of the Isle of Wight, the turbines could be more than 350ft tall, higher than Wales’ tallest residential building, Swansea’s Meridian Quay Tower. But if turbine numbers are reduced to 180 they could be doubled in height to around 700ft.

The project, still at the consultation stage, will be decided by the Government’s National Infrastructure Directorate. RWE npower says the project could provide around 90% of Wales’ domestic energy needs.

But a letter to the company from the Gower Society, signed by secretary Ruth Ridge, says: “You continue to mislead the public by referring to the Atlantic Array when it’s clearly in the Bristol Channel.

“Your proposal is too close to Gower, the north Devon coast and Lundy Island and will impact adversely on each of these.

A massive offshore windfarm could damage marine life and ruin one of Wales’ most beautiful coastal landscapes, campaigners have warned.

The £3bn Atlantic Array wind farm between Cornwall and Swansea Bay would see around 250 turbines erected between Lundy Island and Gower by Swindon-based RWE npower renewables.

Over an area the size of the Isle of Wight, the turbines could be more than 350ft tall, higher than Wales’ tallest residential building, Swansea’s Meridian Quay Tower. But if turbine numbers are reduced to 180 they could be doubled in height to around 700ft.

The project, still at the consultation stage, will be decided by the Government’s National Infrastructure Directorate. RWE npower says the project could provide around 90% of Wales’ domestic energy needs.

But a letter to the company from the Gower Society, signed by secretary Ruth Ridge, says: “You continue to mislead the public by referring to the Atlantic Array when it’s clearly in the Bristol Channel.

“Your proposal is too close to Gower, the north Devon coast and Lundy Island and will impact adversely on each of these.
The view over Rhossili Bay, Gower

“Most other proposals for off-shore wind farms in the UK sit against or below a horizon not between two nationally important landscapes.

“The visual impact will detrimentally affect not only the Gower AONB but other nationally designated landscape protection areas on both sides of the channel.

“Lundy is on the main route for west coast migratory birds and a feeding ground for gannets and shearwaters from Grassholm, Skokholm and Skomer.

“There’s evidence Swansea Bay and the Bristol Channel has significant breeding colonies of Harbour Porpoise, a vulnerable species under the European Habitats Directive.

“We understand while the UK and Welsh Governments are not currently compliant with this directive, the Infringement Unit of the European Commission has accepted it.

“If the Array was moved further west, into the Atlantic, many (though not all) of these issues would be resolved or diminished.”

But Craig Harwood, Atlantic Array development manager said: “The location of the proposed Array is one of nine areas of seabed around the UK identified by The Crown Estate as most suitable for offshore wind.

“It’s only within those areas developers have rights to identify suitable locations for wind farms before submitting a planning application.

“We’ve carried out studies to assess the effects on the environments. Considerable research has been done to identify the bird and marine mammals in the region to learn how they could be affected.

“We’re aware of the importance of the seabird colonies of Grassholm, Skokholm and Skomer.

“An initial assessment of effects on seabirds has already been carried out and a more detailed assessment of sites protected by European legislation is continuing.

“RWE is currently looking at ways to minimise the temporary effect of noise during the construction period, which may cause disturbance to harbour porpoises.”

The National Trust, the North Devon Fishermen’s Association and the Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership are among other objectors.

Carmarthenshire council’s planning committee has not objected though it voiced concerns over seascape and visual impacts, particularly from Pembrey Burrows.

Rob Thornhill, RWE’s development manager for the Atlantic Array, said: “Polls show the effect of wind farms on tourism is negligible at worst.”

He said surveys by the company suggested 89% of visitors would not be discouraged from visiting the areas concerned because of Atlantic Array, with only 2% suggesting they would not visit again.

He said: “The Array is important to the UK as it could make a significant contribution to helping it become less dependant on fossil fuels from abroad.”

The company’s formal application is expected to be submitted early next year, with a decision by the Planning Inspectorate due in early 2014. If approved, construction could start mid 2017 with first energy production in late 2018.

Source:  Robin Turner, WalesOnline | Nov 12 2012 | www.walesonline.co.uk

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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