Sunsets in Blackpool will change forever when a £231 million wind farm – made up of around 130 turbines – is built 17 miles out to sea.
The project, set to get underway next year, will power nearly half a million homes with green energy, create hundreds of jobs, and feature in the background of countless future holiday snaps.
It comes as the Crown Estate, which manages the Queen’s property and land, including the seabed surrounding the UK, auctioned access to the water to provide eight gigawatts of offshore wind power, with five other projects given the nod to help the Government hit its renewable energy targets.
“I wouldn’t be too keen for them to be too close to the shoreline because we’ve got a magnificent view across open seas,” Coun Tony Williams, leader of the opposition of Blackpool Council, said.
“Directly off the coast of a very busy tourist destination perhaps is not the best thing.
“But of course I do support wind energy. I think it’s brilliant we are going to be able to power so many homes, but I hope Blackpool gets the benefit of that.
“You never know, it might even be an attraction. Not many people get up close to wind farms.”
Walney Island wind farm, off the coast of Cumbria, is visible on clear days while standing on Fylde coast beaches, and the new megabucks scheme is set to be built directly opposite the Tower and the town’s three piers.
The finer details have yet to be revealed and it’s not currently known how many turbines will be built exactly, but the 189 at Walney Island reach 623 feet tall and span a total of 55 square miles.
That farm generates 659 megawatts, with Blackpool’s set to generate 480, so it is likely that around 130 turbines will be visible from the resort.
It will be built by Offshore Wind Limited, a partnership between Spain’s Cobra Group and Flotation Energy, which told The Gazette: “We are convinced this Irish Sea project has huge potential with unique strengths and advantages, based on a high wind resource, low water depths (20-30m), short distance to shore (less than 20 miles) and good ground conditions.
“There is now a lot of hard work needed to get the project built and delivering renewable electricity as quickly as possible.
“We are strongly committed to working with the local community to make this happen.
“The project will require significant investment and support hundreds of jobs in the area.”
Blackpool’s two Tory MPs both backed the wind farm.
Paul Maynard, who represents Blackpool North and Cleveleys, said it would boost the economy, but cautioned: “I will naturally keep a close eye on the planning aspects of these proposals to ensure they do not cause disproportionate nuisance.”
And Scott Benton, whose seat covers Blackpool South, added: “This new site is a key part of that plan allowing the UK to play its part in tackling climate change, whilst also bringing skilled jobs to the North West of England.
“As it is 28km from our coast, the site won’t impact Blackpool’s tourist economy or beaches.”
Mr Benton did not say whether the resort would directly benefit from energy produced at the farm.
But yesterday’s announcement should, in theory, help the Government, which is still heavily reliant on gas for its energy, reach its target of producing 40 gigawatts of wind power from British waters by 2030 – and have net zero emissions by 20 years later.
Energy minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “Energy delivered by the new offshore wind projects in the Crown Estate’s latest leasing round will help power seven million homes, driving
forward our commitments to eliminate the UK’s contribution to carbon emissions by 2050, creating thousands of new jobs and ensuring Britain builds back greener.”
Dan Labbad, boss at the Crown Estate, added: “With a net zero goal, some of the best offshore wind resources in the world, and clear commitment from Government and industry to
continue investing in the low carbon economy, the UK stands ready to play its part in addressing the global climate crisis.
“The task now is to work together across the sector, to coordinate the development we need offshore, in a way which is sensitive to the importance of biodiversity in our precious marine
environment and brings new employment opportunities and growth to a range of communities across the country.”
The next step of the plan is to assess the potential impact on marine life and the environment, which will last until next spring, experts believe.
Then a lengthy planning process will start – with the wind farm not expected to be up and running for another nine years.
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