Update: Have developers pulled the plug on Atlantic Array?

Construction of the Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm, off the coast of Suffolk. Picture: RWE

Construction of the Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm, off the coast of Suffolk. Picture: RWE - Credit: Archant

Unconfirmed reports suggest plans for giant North Devon offshore wind farm may be shelved by RWE.

An offshore wind farm is being proposed for the Bristol Channel, eight miles off the North Devon Coa

An offshore wind farm is being proposed for the Bristol Channel, eight miles off the North Devon Coast This image shows the North Hoyle offshore wind farm, situated in Liverpool Bay in North East Wales. - Credit: Archant

THERE are unconfirmed reports this evening that plans for a 240-turbine wind farm nine miles off the North Devon coast are to be shelved by RWE npower renewables.

It is understood that the company behind the Atlantic Array is to pull the plug on the project due to difficulties raising the money to fund the project.

Last week it was reported that RWE npower, one of the big six energy providers, was set to unveil disinvestments in Britain.

The Gazette has been unable to speak to anyone at RWE despite repeated calls this afternoon. However, it is expected that an official announcement will be made tomorrow (Tuesday).

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The plans for the scheme were announced in 2007 and were only lodged with the Planning Inspectorate this summer.

Developers say the wind farm could bring huge economic benefits to North Devon and would generate enough electricity to power approximately 900,000 homes.

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They say the £3.8 billion array would make major contribution to national renewable energy need and bring jobs and investment to North Devon.

But while many have welcomed the investment, the scheme has been met with a barrage of local objection, including from both North Devon and Torridge district councils, and from locally formed campaign groups, including Slay the Array.

Slay The Array has already hailed the decision to abandon the project as ‘sensible and realistic’.

Spokesman Steve Crowther said: “I am delighted that RWE have recognised the fundamental unviability of this scheme. We’ve been saying throughout this year that RWE should cut its losses and go home.

“The inshore waters off some of the UK’s most important and protected wild coasts, in a unique Maritime Conservation Zone, was never the right location for this project. Even the government’s own environmental assessment cast severe doubts over its suitability.

“It was clear from the record 1,775 interested parties who signed up to the enquiry – eight times more than for any other offshore scheme – that this one was a dead duck.

“This plan brought together an unprecedented array of opponents, including many people and organisations who have never before opposed a renewable scheme. I would like to pay tribute to all of them, especially the Slay The Array partners and supporters.

“Groups fighting similar inshore developments, such as the Navitus Bay proposals for Dorset’s Jurassic coast, will take heart from this decision. Massive wind arrays may have their place in the energy mix, but it certainly is not spread across the horizon of some of Britain’s finest coastal beauty spots.”

Peter Heaton-Jones, North Devon’s Conservative parliamentary candidate, has also publicly campaigned against the Atlantic Array. Tonight, he hailed the move as ‘a victory for commonsense’.

He said: “In August I said this was the wrong plan in the place, and joined with Slay the Array to fight it. I wanted to make my views absolutely clear, rather than sitting on the fence or saying nothing.

“This announcement is a victory for all of us who have opposed this scheme, it’s a victory for North Devon, and overall it’s a victory for commonsense.

“The Atlantic Array is, quite literally, dead in the water; it means we can celebrate the end of this awful plan to scar North Devon’s beautiful coastline with 240 massive wind turbines.”

“As well as devastating the environment, the Array would have been an expensive and inefficient white elephant.

North Devon Green Party spokesperson Ricky Knight said the news was ‘totally unexpected’.

He said: “Hot on the heels of the galling announcement of the go-ahead for Hinkley C, we are of course very disappointed that RWE have pulled out of this development at such a late stage.

“Tens of millions of pounds have been invested into this application thus far; so it is very odd that, but a few weeks before the preliminary meeting of the examining authority in Bristol, the plug should have been pulled.

“It proves the precarious predicament the renewables industry is in, generally - and in particular, the financial straits RWE’s German parent company are in.

“We have been accused in the past of cosying up to big business; in a sense this is inevitable when only the largest corporations can find the up-front money to fund such a fiendishly expensive application process with the risk, as in this case, of it falling through anyway.

“We welcome the exit of RWE npower from the scene but can only hope that somehow, from somewhere, the energy, faith and finance and can be found to develop wind installations that really benefit local people and local businesses – projects that are genuinely community-owned and which do not simply line the pockets of the big six energy companies and private shareholders.

“I doubt if this is the last we hear of plans to harness the wind power of the Bristol Channel but let us hope no-one turns to the Chinese to finance any re-birth of the scheme.”

Check back for more reaction and an official comment from RWE as soon as we have one.

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