The government has shown signs of increased sensitivity over the siting of onshore wind farms, and planning permission has become harder to get. Is it reasonable to accept that, wherever and in whatever form it occurs, ‘green’ energy should trump all other interests? There is mounting pressure to drive the whole enterprise into the sea. “Offshore, not on” is the favoured slogan for defenders of the landscape, but if nationally important landscapes should be protected from industrial blight, then why not nationally important seascapes too? The first concerted opposition to visual encroachment came in the 1920s and nowhere more powerfully than in Clough Williams-Ellis’s viscerally angry 1928 book ‘England and the Octopus’ in which he wrote: “If the government has one function above all others, surely it is to protect the natural heritage and rights of its future citizens against the infringements of selfish squanderers in our present time.”
The Rampion Offshore wind farm development has been given consent by the Department for Energy and Climate Change. The wind farm will include between 100 – 175 turbines 13-20km off the Sussex coast between Worthing and Brighton & Hove. Onshore construction starts in 2015, and offshore construction covering 122 km2 will commence in 2016.
There are two potential impacts on birds from wind farms: the risk of them colliding with the turbine blades and the possibility they may lose feeding areas. EON claims they have conducted surveys for two years to find out the species and numbers using the Rampion area for feeding, foraging, resting, flying, breeding and migration. The Secretary of State also carried out an environmental assessment of Special Protection Areas and birds, and found there would be no likely significant affect on them from the development of the Rampion project. Hard to believe.
Meanwhile, Wales’ first full-scale tidal energy generator has been unveiled at Pembroke Port. The patented DeltaStream device, developed by Cardiff-based tidal stream technology company Tidal Energy, will be installed in Ramsey Sound, Pembrokeshire and will be among the world’s first demonstration devices to generate green, sustainable and predictable tidal power, the first grid-connected freestanding tidal turbine. EU funds worth £8m, delivered through the Welsh government, have been invested in the project.
Named ‘Ysbryd y Mor’ – meaning ‘Spirit of the Sea’ – the 400kw demonstration device, weighing 150 tonnes with a frame 16m long by 20m high, has been fabricated and assembled over the last six months. The DeltaStream incorporates a number of design features to minimise any potential impact on the surrounding environment.