The man behind one of the world’s biggest offshore wind farms believes a similarly large green energy development off the Devon and Cornwall coast is “inevitable”.
Peter Crone of Zero Carbon Marine believes it is only a matter of time before an enormous offshore wind farm in the Bristol Channel is given the go ahead.
Peter – who devised the London Array (seen in the video above), the “world’s largest operational offshore wind farm” – believes the development off the Devon coast could consist of up to 400 turbines, each around 140 metres tall.
Peter’s former company Farm Energy were also behind plans for a similar development off the North Devon coast known as the Atlantic Array.
The proposals for the wind farm to the east of Lundy Island, which were devised in 2005, were eventually scrapped in 2013 after energy firm RWE pulled out of the project.
While Peter says the project in its original form would not be feasible anymore, he believes a larger wind farm in a slightly different location will “inevitably” be built at some point soon.
He was speaking after an announcement last week in which the Government revealed it wanted 30% of electricity to come from offshore wind by 2030.
Talking to Devon Live, Peter said: “We have been revisiting the Atlantic Array plans for some time – there is a lot of interest in a development in the Bristol channel.
“The chances of a project at the Atlantic Array site however are quite slim. The huge tidal changes there make the depth of sand at that site shallow, meaning it would need a different type of foundations which are expensive and harder to install – though not impossible.
“If we were to go for the project again I think we’d go for a site to the west of Lundy instead.”
Peter said he and his colleagues learned a huge amount from the Atlantic Array project.
He said: “I got to know the North Devon Fisherman’s Association very well and knew where they fished.
“Knowing that, if we went 20km west of Lundy we would be out in the wider expanses of the Bristol channel where there are no shipping routes, virtually no UK fishing and much less visual impact.”
The visual impact of the Atlantic Array wind farm was one of the biggest concerns for North Devon residents at the time.
But Peter says as the technology has progressed, the turbines have got bigger.
He said: “For a project like this, I think we’d be looking at a significant scale – up to 400 turbines with 140 metre high towers and 200 metre rotas.
“The previous ones for the Atlantic Array were around 100 metres tall with 120 metre rotas.
“The new area to the west of Lundy has a water depth of about 70 metres so we have been looking at floating foundations.
“It’s a long-term shot but there are a lot of interested parties and it could be here sooner than we think.”
Peter says he believes the Government is “in panic” over its plans for renewable energy.
He said: “Their energy policy was a train wreck waiting to happen. Everyone has been so focused on Brexit that no other decisions have been made.
“They are way off target for their next carbon budget and I think that’s what prompted the announcement about offshore wind last week.
“The target of 30 per cent offshore wind electricity is pretty pathetic – 30 per cent of our energy already comes from renewables so this is not exactly ambitious.”
Peter is extremely worried about the impact and speed of climate change, which he says is “much, much worse than we had thought”.
He said: “There is not a single EU country that is hitting their carbon targets and we are on course for a 4 degrees increase by the end of the century.
“Big problems need big solutions and I think a large offshore wind farm in the Bristol channel is inevitable.
“We will all be driving electric cars before too long and that will require extra electricity – it’s got to come from somewhere.
“We need to go zero carbon and we need to do it fast. If we carry on doing very little, the results will be catastrophic.”
What was the Atlantic Array – and why were people so opposed to it?
It’s fair to say the Atlantic Array was a controversial project and one which divided opinion in North Devon.
The plans for 240 turbines 10 miles off the North Devon coast were proposed by energy firm RWE.
Initiated in 2005, it was hoped the offshore wind farm would create up to 1,000 jobs in North Devon and supply of electricity to the area.
However, the plans attracted huge opposition, not least from organised protest groups such as “Atlantic Disarray” and “Slay The Array” who were vehemently opposed to the project on visual and environmental grounds.
The project was eventually abandoned in December 2013 after RWE said the project was “no longer economically viable”.
Speaking at the time, Peter Crone said: “I think a lot of people have been left disappointed that the scheme isn’t going ahead as it could have created a lot of jobs.
“My feelings towards the scheme haven’t changed and I think that if the UK is serious about de-carbonising its electricity industry, then the development will have to be built.”
Speaking this week Ricky Knight, secretary of the North Devon Green Party, says the local Greens were the only group in support of the application for the Atlantic Array, other than the developers.
He said: “We fought against the massed orchestrated ranks of opposition from just about every parish and town councillor in North Devon and Torridge.
“I remain wholeheartedly in favour of it and am very excited by the prospect of it being resurrected – it could be a multi-billion pound investment into the south west economy.
“I’m of the firm conviction that the south west could become a regional and national leader in the field of wind energy and indeed could become, with the Atlantic Array on stream, a net exporter.”
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