By Harriet Thacker
Draft plans for the proposed Rampion offshore wind farm went on show in Brighton today (Saturday 18 February).
The exhibition, at the Brighton Unitarian Church in New Road, is part of a pre-application consultation before the energy company Eon seeks formal permission for the scheme.
The public consultation is due to last until Sunday 6 May.
The proposed wind farm will be as close as eight miles off the Sussex coast and span 105 square miles (270sq km).
It is expected to have between 100 and 195 turbines, making it one of the largest offshore wind farms in the world.
Eon hopes that it will generate 700MW of electricity and supply about 450,000 homes, the equivalent of more than two thirds of East and West Sussex, including Brighton and Hove.
Chris Tomlinson, the Rampion development manager for Eon, said: “The public feedback has been very positive so far.”
Eon has already erected a meteorological mast at the site to gather wind speed data and measure wave heights and sea currents.
Despite pioneering the development of clean, green energy, there are environmental concerns surrounding wind farms, in particular offshore ones.
Each turbine for the Rampion project will need to be drilled and vibrated, or pile-driven, into the sea bed, which can affect the breeding and behaviour of fish like cod and sole.
Ian Fells, emeritus professor of energy conversion at Newcastle University, expressed concern over offshore wind farms in September last year.
Professor Fells said: “What I am a bit worried about is the government’s and previous government’s infatuation with offshore wind power which is very expensive and intermittent.
“There are other renewables which have been starved of support and they should be going down that route.”
The geographic position of the British Isles gives the UK some of the world’s largest resources of wind energy.
Currently, the UK has more than 3,400 turbines in operation fuelling the equivalent of more than three million homes.
Britain is the world’s leading generator of offshore power, followed by Denmark.
The government has set targets to try to ensure that 15 per cent of our renewable energy will come from wind power by 2015.
The Rampion proposal is part of the third round of development of wind farms in British coastal waters.
Dave Rogers, regional director for renewables at Eon, said: “Round 3 challenges us to build even bigger and better offshore wind farms in much more challenging environments.
“Rampion’s relative proximity to shore means that we can work reasonably quickly as we look to move to more industrial-scale developments, and we’re already seeing good progress on the scheme.”
The cost of wind energy has fallen over the years and is now competitive compared with new clean coal-fired power stations and cheaper than new nuclear power.
Offshore wind farms such as the one off Thanet in Kent have been heavily subsidised though and have been blamed for causing bills to rise.
Matthew Buffey, 26, from Brighton, said: “Everyone has to play their part in making the planet a more eco-friendly place, even if this means spending a bit more money.”
Brighton is an eco-friendly place. With the first elected Green council in the country it is not surprising that enthusiasm for the Rampion project is high.
Councillor Kennedy cited Rampion as not only providing renewable green energy but also serving to address part of the need for 6,000 jobs in Brighton and Hove.
In a newsletter in September Eon confirmed Rampion’s potential to create jobs and promised to use companies based in the area and recruit locally.
Brighton and Hove City Council has already said, however, that “none of the onshore elements associated with the wind farm are expected to fall within Brighton and Hove”.
Julie Harris, a media relations officer at the council, said: “Onshore elements will include things like engineering, structures and building – it’s more Hastings than Brighton and Hove.”
Although the site will create only specialist jobs which will have little or no impact on Brighton’s quota, studies have shown that wind farms can increase tourism.
Britain’s first commercial wind farm at Delabole received 350,000 visitors in its first ten years of operation.
An Ipsos Mori poll in Scotland showed that 80 per cent of tourists would be interested in visiting a wind farm.
Boat trips around Thanet also offer views of its offshore wind farm and similar excursions could be introduced for Rampion, boosting tourism in Brighton and Hove.
Eon is now concluding its pre-application phase. Mr Tomlinson said: “We are at the point where we are concluding survey work and environmental effects.
“We expect to be applying for planning permission in mid to late summer.”
Both Eon and the council have said that they will try to avoid or mitigate any negative impacts that the wind farm may have.
Anyone can contribute their views on the proposal by completing and returning a consultation questionnaire at one of the public exhibitions.
Alternatively email one of the team at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Freepost Rampion Offshore Wind Farm.
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