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Developers pull the plug on one of the world’s largest offshore windfarms

Plans for one of the world’s largest offshore windfarms off the coast of North Devon have been dropped.

Financial concerns are partly behind the decision by the German-owned developers RWE npower to pull the plug on the 240-turbine Atlantic Array project.

Campaigners have blamed David Cameron’s promises to cut green levies, with government infighting said to be causing deep uncertainty in the industry.

The scheme had drawn criticism from environmentalists who were worried about its impact on marine wildlife in the Bristol Channel and campaigners who branded the project for 720-ft high turbines unsightly.

Paul Cowling, director of offshore wind at RWE Innogy, said: “This is not a decision we have taken lightly; however, given the technological challenges and market conditions, now is not the right time for RWE to continue to progress with this project.”

The company said that technical challenges within the Bristol Channel have proved “significant”, including deeper waters and adverse seabed conditions.

Mr Cowling added: “The commercial reality means that in the current market conditions, overcoming the technical challenges within The Bristol Channel Zone would be uneconomic.”

The Crown Estate has accepted their decision and the company has surrendered their seabed rights.

It is not known if any other firm will take over the project which would have powered hundreds of thousands of homes in the region.

The announcement comes just weeks after Paul Coffey, chief operating officer at RWE’s renewable energy division Innogy, warned that time was running out for offshore wind – blaming green levies and the government’s use of the issue as a “political football”.

After the news broke Friends of the Earth’s Head of Campaigns, Andrew Pendleton, told the BBC: “The government’s wanton green-bashing is starting to cost jobs and threaten the future security of our energy supply.

“The UK has some of the finest offshore clean energy resources in the world and harnessing it is becoming cheaper.

“But anti-green ideology at the heart of the coalition is sending the development of world-beating clean power into reverse.”

Mr Cowling said that RWE is still backing offshore wind and will be pressing ahead with other projects off Britain’s coastline which are less challenging.

A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesperson said the scrapping of the scheme was a matter for the developer, but the decision “was made on purely technical grounds and reflects the many complex challenges of constructing offshore windfarms”.

They insisted that they remain on track to meet the 2020 renewable energy target.

The turbines, each 722ft tall – more than four times the height of Nelson’s column – were planned for an area 10 miles off the North Devon coast, eight miles from Lundy Island, a 1.7 sq mile outcrop owned by the National Trust.

The project would have been capable of producing 1,200 megawatts of electricity – which the developers said would have been enough for up to 900,000 homes.

The plans had prompted backlash from residents and environmental and heritage groups, who claimed it could cause lasting damage.

Huub den Rooijen, The Crown Estate’s Head of Offshore wind said: “Now that the industry has been developing projects for a number of years, there is a much deeper understanding of the characteristics of successful projects and we will see further attrition in the time to come.

“Paradoxically, this is a positive development because it provides greater clarity to key stakeholders such as supply chain and consenting bodies, and brings greater focus to the investment opportunities.”