The company behind controversial plans to position one of the biggest offshore wind farms in the world between Wales and Devon has announced a scaling down of the project.
RWE npower renewables says the Atlantic Array project off the coast of Swansea will cover 124 square miles instead of 172, its turbine numbers will be cut from 278 to 240, and it could power around 900,000 homes instead of more than a million.
But Gower Society chairman Malcolm Ridge, says the amendments announced today will make no difference to the society’s concerns.
He said: “This will be around 14 miles off south Gower and the view will be, if not industrialised, certainly a distraction from the tranquil and beautiful maritime scene you expect from this part of the world.
“It’s simply too big and is in the wrong place, and could damage tourism on Gower where people go for the beautiful views.
“Developers often devise very large schemes then scale them down a bit to say they’ve taken account of opinions.”
However, Gareth Clubb, who is director of Friends of the Earth Cymru, said: “It’s a shame the Array will not now be powering more than a million homes.
“But renewables firms have to be sensitive to the various interests involved and this decision was no doubt made for a mixture of commercial and planning reasons.
“We think it’s a very good scheme and will eventually help Wales be powered by 100% renewables.”
Craig Harwood, Atlantic Array’s project manager said: “The changes focus on reducing visual and seascape effects and potential underwater disturbance from piling noise.
“There are also benefits to a number of other areas, including commercial fisheries, birds, navigation and the ecology of the seabed.”
RWE said that up to February 2013, more than £800,000 worth of contracts for the Atlantic Array have been awarded to Welsh-based suppliers.
RWE figures show of the total £16.8m worth of contracts given so far, 4.8% have gone to Wales, 49.2% to the South East and London, 11.5% to Devon, 10.9% to the South West, 0.5% to Scotland, 5.8% to the North West, 0.8% to the Midlands and 2.2% to Yorkshire and the North East.
Mr Harwood added: “We’ve already seen Welsh ports like Swansea used by our suppliers to launch survey vessels.
“Since being awarded the rights to develop the Array in 2010 we’ve taken part in nine supply chain events at locations such as Pembroke, Swansea and Cardiff.”
RWE is now working towards submitting its application for the wind farm to the Planning Inspectorate in June.
Last year, Swansea councillors took planning officers’ advice to object to Atlantic Array on the grounds of possible environmental and economic damage to one of the nation’s most famous beauty spots.
Neighbouring Carmarthenshire Council voted not to object.
John Steevens, chairman of Swansea’s Civic Society, said: “While 240 turbines sited 37 or more kilometres off Mumbles Head may seem a big step into the unknown, the resulting investment of this scale will achieve a significant output of renewable energy for years to come and clearly RWE is also aware of the need to ensure South Wales will benefit from the scheme in terms of the initial construction and future servicing with £800,000 already spent in the region.
“The Civic Society is happy to voice it’s support for the scheme and would encourage RWE to take advantage of Swansea Docks as the nearest significant facility to access the site.
“However it is a regret that RWE found it more convenient for the power feed connection and infrastructure to be on the English side of the Bristol Channel.”
Steve Crowther, of campaign group Slay the Array, said: “The latest minor adjustments to RWE npower’s Atlantic Array proposals make no difference to the massive damage it will do to the Bristol Channel, Lundy Island, North Devon and Gower.
“The Atlantic Array is proposed to be sited in a place that has been specifically described as inappropriate under the government’s own Strategic Environmental Assessments.
“The Government states that any proposal for development within 12 nautical miles (22km) of a coast must take account of the sensitivity of the seascape, citing in particular heritage coasts, wildness, National Parks and AONBs – features which cover virtually the whole coast in question.
“Opposition to this monstrosity is growing every day. RWE will find that if they submit an application in June they will have a monumental fight on their hands.
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