The company behind controversial plans to position one of the biggest offshore wind farms in the world between Wales and Devon has dropped the project claiming it is “uneconomic”.
German firm RWE npower renewables said the £3bn Atlantic Array project involving 240 turbines each around 700ft tall between Gower and North Devon, covering 124 square miles, could have powered around 900,000 homes.
But Gower Society chairman Malcolm Ridge said of the proposal: “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 the Gower where people go for the beautiful views.”
Councillors in Devon also objected to the scheme on the grounds it would damage tourism and there were concerns about bird deaths and damage to seals, porpoises and other sea creatures due to construction noise.
However, earlier this year, Gareth Clubb, director of Friends of the Earth Cymru, said of the project: “We think it’s a very good scheme and will eventually help Wales be powered by 100% renewables.”
Today (tue) announcing its decision to pull out of the scheme RWE said: “Technical challenges within the Bristol Channel Zone are significant, including substantially deeper waters and adverse seabed conditions.
“Costs to overcome such technical challenges are prohibitive in current market conditions. RWE is to focus on progressing more technically and economically viable offshore projects.
“In comparison with other opportunities in the UK offshore wind portfolio, and in light of the significant technical challenges specific to the zone identified from intensive research, at the current time, it is not viable for RWE to continue with development in the Bristol Channel Zone.
“As the offshore wind industry develops over the next decade and on the back of more viable technologies being demonstrated, expected innovation and cost reduction may in the future open up opportunities in the more challenging areas, such as in the Bristol Channel.
“The Crown Estate has agreed to RWE Innogy’s request to terminate the agreement for the Bristol Channel Zone, allowing RWE Innogy to stop its development activities in the zone, and to surrender the option for the Atlantic Array project, thereby removing RWE’s seabed rights.”
Paul Cowling, Director of Offshore Wind at RWE 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.
“We will continue to focus on the other less technically challenging offshore projects within our extensive offshore pipeline of up to 5.2GW. Offshore wind remains one of the strategic objectives for RWE and the UK has a major role to play within our portfolio.
“We are looking forward to the completion of Gwynt-Y-Mor next year. At 576 MW this will become the second largest operating offshore wind farm in the world.”
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.”
Paul Cowling added “We are very grateful for the support we have received from the many interested parties involved in helping us to develop the Atlantic Array project, however the commercial reality means that in the current market conditions, overcoming the technical challenges within The Bristol Channel Zone would be uneconomic for RWE at this time.”
Giving his reaction, Gower Society chairman Malcolm Ridge said: “We are delighted the Atlantic Array is not going ahead.
“We are neither for or against wind farms but when something like this, even though it would have been a few miles away, seriously threatens to have a major visual impact on South Gower we must speak up and object.
“Not only was there a visual impact threat from this huge proposed wind farm there would also have been serious effects from construction work on porpoises and other sea animals.
“In their own statement, RWE say the proposal would be ‘uneconomic’ which must be a reference to the possibility of green subsidies being reduced. Without the taxpayers’ subsidies they are clearly not prepared to carry on with such a big scheme.”
But Director of Friends of the Earth Cymru, Gareth Clubb, told WalesOnline today: “The UK and Welsh Governments alike need to start asking searching questions of their own policies.
“Without enough political support, too many projects like this could fail before they’ve even started. Instead of pursuing dirty sources of energy such as shale gas, we need a renewed emphasis on clean renewables.
“Wales has some of the finest clean energy resources in the world. Through harnessing the wind, rain and sun we can boost employment at the same time as ensuring the future security of our energy supply.”
Steve Crowther of Devon based Slay the Array said: “The inshore waters off some of the UK’s most important and protected wild coasts, in a unique Maritime Conservation Zone, was never the right location for this project. Even the government’s own environmental assessment cast severe doubts over its suitability.
“It’s disturbing that the Crown Estates, having selected this site within the 12-mile limit against best advice, then continued to chase the money, pushing for its development despite the huge opposition it attracted from all quarters.”
Friends of the Earth’s head of campaigns, Andrew Pendleton, said: “The government’s wanton green-bashing is starting to cost jobs and threaten the future security of our energy supply.
“Anti-green ideology at the heart of the coalition is sending the development of world-beating clean power into reverse.”
Derek Green, manager of Lundy Island, said: “It is fantastic news for tourism and wildlife in the Bristol Channel and in particular for Lundy.”
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