United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Huge Atlantic Array plan unveiled -- Offshore 1500 MW

A plan to site 350 wind turbines off the north coast of south-west England has been unveiled by Farm Energy, a small local company that originated the 1000 MW London Array wind farm in the Thames Estuary that was granted planning consent in December. With a proposed total capacity of 1500 MW, the new Atlantic Array is among the largest offshore wind farms proposed in Europe.

The £3 billion project is planned for a site 22 kilometres north-west of Ilfracombe in Devon, the county from which Farm Energy hails. "Atlantic Array would be a landmark project that would see the Southwest taking a significant step towards a more environmentally sustainable future," says Farm Energy's Peter Crone. The wind farm would avoid the equivalent of 5% of greenhouse gas emissions from the Southwest, he adds.

Unusually, for a large wind farm proposal the plan is already receiving a top level political welcome -- and in an area where public opposition to wind development has been fierce. The member of parliament for North Devon, Nick Harvey, says it is "brilliant news" for the south-west and could prove to be a bonanza for Ilfracombe, the nearest port. "This will be the biggest wind development to date in the UK and one of the biggest in the world. I am proud that North Devon could get to host the scheme and I hope that everyone will pull together to ensure that it becomes a reality," he says.

Community benefits

Ecological, shipping and grid connection studies have shown the wind farm to be feasible, says Crone. But he stresses the project is in its early stages, with no consents yet and no site lease from the owner of the seabed, the Crown Estate. "It is still likely to be several years before we are in a position to submit a planning application," he says.

"The reason for this public announcement is that we are keen to consult as widely as possible in an open and transparent way with all interested parties and to ensure that the local community derives the maximum benefit from these proposals."

The project is located outside the three areas designated by the government for development under the second round of UK offshore projects -- the Outer Wash and the Outer Thames Estuary, both off the east coast of England, and in areas off northwest England. These were identified as suitable for wind development after strategic environmental assessments (SEAs). "All future development will be subject to further SEAs," says Crone.

Matthew Spencer of Regen SW, the renewable energy agency for south-west England, comments: "Atlantic Array is a game-changing proposal which will have a major influence on the government's thinking on the best areas for offshore wind, currently assumed to be shallow water off the east of England coast and in the Irish Sea. "This proposal allows the Southwest to start playing in the big league of the European renewable energy industry, and is sure to stimulate new interest in the region from other companies."

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