North Devon 'invaluable' to offshore windfarm project, say developers

THE company chosen to develop proposals for a �4.5billion offshore wind farm in the Bristol Channel has said that North Devon could play an invaluable part in the project. RWE npower renewables has been awarded a Government lease to build the 250-turbin

THE company chosen to develop proposals for a �4.5billion offshore wind farm in the Bristol Channel has said that North Devon could play an "invaluable" part in the project.

RWE npower renewables has been awarded a Government lease to build the 250-turbine Atlantic Array, 14km to the north of Lundy Island.

Speaking to the Gazette shortly after the announcement on Friday, the company's head of offshore development, Alistair Gill, said that although plans were still at an early stage, North Devon was being looked at as a possible development, operation and construction base.

"No decision has been made, but North Devon is looking favourable, particularly in the development and operation stage," he said.


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"In terms of providing a construction port, we have been working closely with the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDW) and Regen SW to see what possibilities there are in the area. We have already started looking at a number of opportunities for construction in North Devon and will be ramping up our investigations from now on in.

"North Devon and the West Country are in competition with ports in South Wales, but at nine miles to the windfarm at the nearest point, North Devon is the closest and will be invaluable in lots of ways."

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During the construction period it is expected that up to 200-400 on-shore jobs could be created and potentially a further 2,000 people engaged in offshore activities.

Potential business activities could include environmental planning, research, surveying, manufacturing and fabrication, on-shore assembly and commissioning, installation, logistics, training, accommodation and crew transfers.

In the early research and development stages, North Devon could be looked at to supply the survey vessels needed for site, seabed and marine life studies, while with a grid connection to Alverdiscott already secured, major works will be almost certainly be required to establish the link.

Mr Gill said that npower had commissioned a study to look at port requirements and that the company would now begin a two-year round of research and consultation before submitting a planning application to the Infrastructure Planning Commission in 2012.

"Although we've been working on this development since 2008, the Government's announcement on preferred partners marks the real start of the project and we can now look at the overall situation.

"During the development stage, we will be consulting widely with stakeholders, local authorities, Lundy Island, and bodies such as Natural England, as well as members of the public at meetings and exhibitions later in the year."

John Gowdy, head of business support at Regen SW, the renewable energy agency for the South West of England, confirmed that developers were "actively looking at brownfield sites within the Taw and Torridge Estuary".

He said construction was expected to take place on a four-hectare size site and drew comparisons with the port at Mostyn in North Wales, where npower began assembling the first of 25 wind turbines for the Rhyl Flats Offshore Wind Farm in April last year.

He said: "In some previous offshore developments the amount of local economic benefit has been disappointing. But the South West, with its heritage of marine and engineering industries, is in a very strong position to reap the economic benefits of offshore renewables.

"We now need to work closely with RWE npower renewables, and our South West businesses to ensure we have the capabilities, people and infrastructure to support these projects."

As part of this effort the South West RDA, Regen SW and The Crown Estate will be holding an Offshore Wind Supply Chain conference in Bristol on March 9.

Devon County Council said it was also "working hard" to maximise the potential economic benefits of the Atlantic Array offshore windfarm.

The council said it hoped to secure a "significant" number of jobs for North Devon.

Devon County Council's Cabinet Member for Economic and Strategic Planning, William Mumford said many of the services needed to support such a large-scale project, including marine expertise and engineering, were already in place in Devon.

"When it comes to renewable energy, Devon is at the forefront in developing and encouraging green energy schemes and we welcome the opportunity to play our part in supporting the project," he said.

"The announcement is fantastic news for North Devon, and we will make sure that the potential benefits are felt in the local economy.

"We will be working very hard with the developer, partner organisations and local businesses to maximise the economic boost this project could provide locally."

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THE Atlantic Array is one of nine offshore wind zones around the UK granted development rights by The Crown Estate, a Government agency that owns the seabed around Britain.

The Bristol Channel windfarm would generate 1.5gigawatts of energy, enough to supply 750,000 homes. Together, the nine sites would help the UK to meet EU renewable energy targets by 2020 by providing a 32GW output - a quarter of the UK's electricity needs.

RWE npower renewables, the UK subsidiary of RWE Innogy, will now begin the development process, including stakeholder consultation and the environmental impact assessments needed to obtain planning permission.

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