A battle is being fought to stop one of the world’s biggest offshore windfarms being built in the Bristol Channel as the race continues to hit tough targets on renewable energy.
The Atlantic Array is a development of 240 wind turbines that will be visible both from South Wales and North Devon.
If planning permission is granted, it would provide enough power for 900,000 homes and reinforce the UK’s status as the global leader in offshore wind power.
But Steve Crowther from the Slay The Array campaign says it will be “environmentally catastrophic”.
“They call this an offshore wind farm – it’s inshore. It is between this beautiful Devon coast visited by four million people every year and the Pembroke coast visited by three million people every year.
“And people don’t come here to see the landscape and the horizon covered in wind turbines. They come here for peace, tranquillity, rural settings and seascapes.”
But with the Government committed to offshore wind power, the number of turbines is only going to increase.
One of the biggest players in the industry is DONG Energy.
It operates the 48 turbines at Gunfleet Sands near Clacton, which have been up and running for three years and supply electricity to 120,000 homes in Essex.
UK wind power manager for the company, Benj Sykes, says despite concerns about the efficiency of wind farms, they are generating energy more than 80% of the time.
“They are becoming more efficient by the day and Dong Energy is committed to improving that further.
“By the end of the decade we will see the cost of energy coming down by something like 40% making them competitive with other technologies.”
And with nearly 8000 miles of coastline there is plenty of opportunity for further development.
Offshore wind turbines in the UK can currently generate more than 3GW watts of energy – enough to power two million homes.
In all, 12.5% of the UK’s electricity is already created from renewable sources.
The target is to produce around 30% by 2020, which means building many more turbines – and that creates jobs.
In Brightlingsea, an entire business has been built because of the Essex wind farm.
Andy White, chairman of Ctruk and Cwind, said: “Three years ago we didn’t exist. We started the two companies to go out and help build offshore wind farms for the utility companies so three years ago we had zero people working for us and now three years on we have 150 people working for us.”