Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Rampion - Potential impacts on shipping, fishing, sailing and diving.

Hello and welcome to my blog. I hope you have had a good week.
     I've been busy contacting some of those who, potentially, could be the most effected by the Rampion offshore wind farm proposal. This means I've got depressingly far behind with my play for Shoreham Wordfest, however I think that's forgivable in view of the 6th May deadline for us to have our say.
     Before we get down to business, thank you so much to all those who have shared their views on the potential impacts. Your comments made this blog possible and add another colour to the mix.

Commercial shipping
The shipping lanes along the south-east coast of England, (from North Foreland to Selsey Bill), are some of the busiest in the world.
     One of these lanes lies 15 miles off Shoreham Port so commercial vessels sail down the highway, exit just south-east of the harbour mouth and are escorted into the Port by the Pilot. The bulk of the proposed wind farm, (167km2), would impinge upon this shipping lane.
     I understand that Ship's Masters will sail around, rather than through, a wind farm. So if the Rampion proposal went ahead, commercial vessels would leave the shipping lane earlier than at present,  head inshore and sail closer to the coast as they approached Shoreham Harbour.
     Whilst re-routing would be inconvenient,  I understand that it would be unlikely to stop commercial vessels from using Shoreham Harbour and the Port would work to ensure that the proposal would not have an adverse impact on its' continued development.

Commercial Fishing.
The shallow coastal seas off the Sussex coast are home to an "amazing diversity of habitats," which supports a wide range of plant and animal life. This results in rich inshore fishing grounds and most of the commercial boats operating off the Sussex coast usually operate within 6 nautical miles of the shore.
     Shoreham Port is the largest fishing port between Brixham, Devon and Lowestoft, Suffolk. In 2009, 4,260 tonnes of fish with a value of £6.3 million were landed at Shoreham Port and Shoreham is England's number one port for scallop landings.
     Under the 2008 Planning Act, E.ON is required to carry out a community consultation before submitting its' application to the Infrastructure Planning Commission. As part of this they have set up Public Liaison Groups, one of which is the Commercial Fishing Working Group, (CFWG).
     This was what was said when they met in November 2011,

"The CFWG maintain that there will be tremendous losses to commercial fishing.. the primary reason the fishermen are participating in the CFWG and co-operating is to secure compensation for lost income to fishermen... displacement is a key issue which will put pressure on other areas, e.g scallop dredgers will be moving into other areas and cause problems for the smaller operators... it may effect Selsey fishermen if the development pushes fishermen from the Rampion area to Littlehampton, as then the Littlehampton fishermen may move further west to Selsey." 

Recreational Sailing
Sussex Yacht Club (SYC), is one of the oldest sailing clubs in the country and is based at Shoreham. It has over 1,400 members and there are at least 300-500 transits by leisure vessels across the affected area by SYC and other yacht clubs in Sussex annually.
     It is unlikely that SYC membership would be affected and the club racing along the coast would be "wholly unaffected as we have been advised there would be no alteration to the seabed within the area which we use for our day races." The biggest impact would be felt on the Royal Escape Race, an annual commemorative race from Brighton to Fecamp, France."Between 60-120 yachts take part in this, the largest cross channel event from Sussex. If Rampion goes ahead, the yachts would have to sail around the wind farm adding at least 10 nautical miles to the race distance; some cannot cover that distance in the hours of daylight."
     Laurence Woodhams is SYC's Rear Commodore and Hon. Treasurer. He also sits on another of E.ON's community consultative bodies, the Sea Users Project Liaison Group.

"Rampion would have a considerable impact on sailing in the area but I feel the interests of leisure sailing would not be considered important enough to interfere with or significantly modify a national infrastructure project such as Rampion. If all the PLGs had problems with it, then our interests may add to the weight of opinion. The project is still in its consultation stage and my duty is to gather and share information with our members. Once all is known then the members of the club will form a collective opinion. In the meantime we shall add our experience of sailing in the area to the information being collated by E.on.”

If the proposal were granted, it would take 2-3 years to complete the offshore element of the wind farm. During that time there would be an exclusion zone around the construction area and the noise emanating from the works “may also have an impact on the divers in the area" (E.ON Community Consultation Document page 35).
     Chris West, a local diving skipper, has been diving wrecks in the area for over 40 years.  His 20 year old boat charter business, Buccaneer Diving, works out of Shoreham and takes divers out to see the shipwrecks all along the Sussex coast.

"All the underwater work, piling, building bases, trenching out for cables and covering over, is likely to cause so much disturbance to the seabed and cause so much sediment, that we will not have any underwater visibility for at least a year during the construction phase and the seabed disturbance will probably take at least another six months to return to normal afterwards. What’s more, this plume of sediment is likely to spread several miles east and west of the construction site.
     A year or two after the wind farm is established, the bases of the windmills will become their own shelter from the tidal current and hopefully life will return around them."

Maritime Rescue Services
I have not spoken to the RNLI but I am convinced that they will continue to save lives at sea regardless. 
     Roland McKie, Staff Officer, SAR (Search and Rescue) said,
"The Maritime and Coastguard Agency have done considerable work over the past 6 years or so, with the offshore renewable energy industry, Search and Rescue helicopter services, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and relevant government departments, to analyse and consider the impacts of offshore wind farms on Search and Rescue operations.
     SAR helicopters are not the only way to rescue people at sea. We have RNLI lifeboats, and all vessels at sea are obliged, by international regulations, to assist wherever they can. SAR helicopters are only one of the tools available to the Coastguard to provide rescue at sea and may not always be the most suitable option.
     We have developed a number of procedures, processes and requirements to ensure that helicopters can conduct rescues from within and around wind turbines; for example we have procedures to enable rescue of injured wind farm workers from the nacelles of wind turbines. We have also created guidance, with the input of the helicopter and lifeboat crews, for rescue procedures within wind farms for other persons in danger e.g. craft or vessels within a wind farm that require rescue or assistance.
     Furthermore, the wind farm operators are obliged to provide immediate rescue cover for their own workers and, because their work boats, like any other vessel, are required to assist persons in danger at sea, they provide a response capability to anyone else who might be in danger outside or within a wind farm.
     Continuing work is underway to mitigate any negative effects that wind farms might have on rescue operations."

Visual impact on the seascape. 

I know that some people are just concerned with the visual impact of the turbines. 
     If you want to gauge the potential effect on the seascape for yourself, head towards Worthing Pier and look out towards E.ON's Met Mast. The Met Mast is 110metres high and the tallest turbine (to the top of the blade tip) would be 210 metres high.
     The mast is positioned right next to the proposed location of the second turbine on the front row of turbines (p.13 Community consultation document.)
     Thus this week we know a bit more about the potential impact of the proposal from sources other than E.ON. Please remember I'm just testing what E.ON have said. It's up to you to have your say, for or against the proposal.

Have a good week and see you soon.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Rampion offshore wind farm proposal - where's the independent advice?

Hello and welcome to my blog.

I'm going to focus on Rampion offshore wind farm proposal again and will continue to do so for a while. It's not that there aren't other things going on here; it's just that we have until the 6th May to have our say so there's not much time to gather and disseminate information.

Before I get going, I wanted to share this interesting BBC video with you on the mechanics of building an offshore wind farm.

Just to bring any new readers up to speed, EON are trying to sell us a product, one of the world's largest offshore wind farms.  We know the benefits and we know one of the consequences, a change to our seascape. But would there be any other less obvious consequences if we bought into the product?  For instance an adverse impact on the local economy, marine environment and shipping? Will there be any noise nuisance? Will there be a drop in house prices?

Whilst not doubting EON's veracity, they are selling something and sales claims can be overblown and the small print can be very, very small. Hence independent opinions from the equivalent of Which? would be helpful.  However, trying to find that is nigh on impossible.  For instance, Adur District Council referred me to EON's website when I asked if they could disclose records of discussions on the possible impact on the local economy, future economic development and tourism should Rampion gain consent.

When I visited our MPs' site, he wrote,

It would produce enough electricity to supply 450,000 homes annually as well as being a tremendous benefit to the environment by reducing 920,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions. I have had a number of meetings with Rampion representatives and they have explained that the turbines will not interfere with ships approaching or leaving the shore and that the base of the turbines will actually act as artificial reefs for sea life.

Rampion will be connected into a National Grid transmission substation at Bolney and the 28km cable will travel underground in order to minimise the impact on local residents. There will, obviously, be some noise from building works onshore along with access to Brooklands Pleasure Park being restricted but, overall, disruption will be minimal.
The wind farm will present a great opportunity for the local economy through construction contracts, local operations and maintenance base, operational services and supplies. It is also a potential support for tourism as e.on’s Scroby Sands Offshore Wind Farm visitor centre attracted 40,000 visitors in 2010." 


Are there no downsides? Does moving wind farms offshore solve the problems some residents have experienced with onshore wind farms? Without this information it's very difficult to make an informed decision by the 6th May.

There are 16 operational offshore wind farms in the UK. Has anyone done an impact assessment of those on the local marine environment and nearby communities a year, two, three years down the line?  Have none been done because there's been an acceptance of Ed Milliband's view that  'It is socially unacceptable to be against wind turbines in your area - like not wearing your seatbelt or driving past a zebra crossing'."  Socially unacceptable to research, to review, to re-consider?  

So, onto the business in hand. What more do we know this week that we didn't know last week? 

1. Fugro Seacore have started work on installing an offshore Met Mast for EON at the proposed Rampion site. The jack-up barge is visible on the horizon from the NCI watch tower going west towards Worthing.  You will get a better view from Worthing Pier. I understand that it's about 8 miles offshore which is tremendously helpful as that would be the site of the closest turbine to land. The mast will be 110 metres high (360 feet) when installed so it can be compared the size of the proposed wind turbines.  The smallest proposed wind turbine (3 MW class) is 180m tall (maximum tip height) or 600 feet tall.  The next size up (5MW class) is 190m (maximum tip height) or 623 feet tall, and the biggest one, (7 MW class), is 210m (maximum tip height) or 680 feet tall. 

2. EON's Environmental Impact Assessment will be available towards the end of May and will be put up on the Rampion Website. Sadly this is after the consultation deadline. 

3. EON welcome any advice on reaching out to others who may have an interest in the project and if you have any suggestions please contact them on Facebook. 

4. EON were expected at Shoreham's Farmer's Market on Saturday but didn't seem to be there.

5. Tim Loughton MP is going to take up the consultation issue with EON. (see comments in previous blog)

6. Sussex Yacht Club and Shoreham Port have briefly commented on the impact on the proposed wind farm upon them and I will post their comments soon.

7. I had hoped to bring you extracts from the key potential environmental implications in Rampion's Scoping Report but it's not possible to copy or duplicate the report without the express permission of RSK and EON. No time to get that but I do urge you to read it.

Hope you have a good week and I'll be back as soon as I have any more news.

Ta-ra for now.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Rampion Offshore Wind Farm - best kept secret in Sussex.

Hello and welcome to my blog.

As with the last one, I'm getting straight down to business;  Rampion Offshore Wind Farm proposal.

This is a proposal to locate one of the world's biggest wind farms around 13 km off the Sussex coast. It would cover an overall area of 271km2 (28km east to west and 10 km north to south), upon which would be located 195 wind turbines and two sub-stations. On shore there would be a new sub-station at Bolney.

EON predict that Rampion could generate enough electricity for the domestic needs of around 450,000 homes per year based on an average annual domestic household electricity consumption of 4,700kWh and "could avoid the emission of over 920,000 tonnes of COeach year which would otherwise have been released by conventional power stations."

It is at planning/concept stage and we have until 6th May to make our feelings known.

It's hard to get an idea of scale when you are dealing with these sorts of figures but this short BBC film on Walney Offshore Wind Farm, the current title holder for the world's biggest wind farm, may help. Rampion would be on a much larger as Walney has 102 smaller turbines covering 73km2.

So if Rampion went ahead what would be the main impacts?

1. Visual. The seascape will change. The wind turbines will be visible from the shore and the Downs. EON's short animation gives an idea of just how visible and you can look at their photomontages. By way of comparison I've included a photo of the wind turbines at Walney. Be aware that the mast heights at Walney are 46 meters shorter than those proposed at Rampion.

One man's meat is another man's poison where turbines are concerned and we can't have our cake and eat it.

2. Noise. Difficult to tell from the consultation document so you may want to ask them direct on rampion@eon.com. If you do, you may want to consider the concerns that were raised by the Senior Environmental Health Officer at Brighton and Hove in October 2010:-

"There is also evidence to suggest that wind farms may and can create low frequency noise which is able to travel long distances very easily...I also note that no consideration has been given to the construction noise off shore.  I note from the information provided that construction could be up to 4 years in length. Discussions with my counterparts in other local authorities have identified that the overnight construction of off shore wind turbines did attract complaints from land based residents and additionally the cabling procedures were also very noisy, again attracting complaints."

As EON didn't really cover it in their Community Consultation Document, I'll let you know what they said about the impact of Rampion on the seabed, geology, fish and shellfish, marine mammals, marine archeology, socio-economic, landscape and seascape, commercial fisheries, navigation and shipping, ecology and nature conservation in their scoping report. If you can't wait, go to EON Scoping Report  and read what is says under key potential environmental impacts.  You may want to have a stiff drink before you do.

So how come so many people don't know even the most basic elements of the proposal?

A clue can be found in the numbers that have attended EON's public consultations. 1.5 million people live in Sussex and only 4,500 people have been to see them. More people than that live on Shoreham Beach so I believe that EON's choice of venues was questionable. For instance, they went to Holmbush Shopping Centre on a Monday afternoon not at the weekend when the public would be there in large numbers. EON went to St Paul's Chapel Road Worthing on a Saturday. Why there and not Sainsbury's Lyons Farm or Montague Street where large numbers of the public would be? Why didn't they go to Brighton Seafront or Churchill Square, again where large numbers of people gather?

If you noticed the Community Consultation Document in the library, when you started to read it you may have found the length, technical detail and vagueness unhelpful. I did. For example why compare Rampion with Scroby Sands Offshore Wind Farm? Scroby Sands has 30 wind turbines and the height is108m to the tip of the blade. Rampion would be up to 195 turbines with between 180m-210m to the blade tip.  Surely a more helpful comparison would have been with Walney offshore wind farm?

Time is running short to have your say so if you have concerns about how the consultation was carried out or about the proposal go to EON and your MPs, Tim Loughton, Peter Bottomley, Simon Kirby, Dr Caroline Lucas , Mike Weatherley. If you don't, you are assumed to be indifferent or in favour.

Ta-ra for a short time. Won't be gone for long.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Wind Farm proposal off Shoreham Beach

Hello and welcome to my blog. I hope you have had a great few weeks.

Just to warn you, the next few publications will be devoted to the Rampion Offshore Wind Farm proposal because 9/10 people I've spoken to in Shoreham, Worthing and Brighton don't know anything about it.

It'll take a while to trawl through e-on's 33 page community consultation document so in the meantime here's what Shoreham Beach Residents Association have said.


Shoreham Beach Residents’ Association is urging residents to register their views about plans for a new windfarm off the Sussex coast – with turbines being clearly visible from the shore.

E.ON UK is about to launch a 12-week public consultation period regarding proposals to site up to 195 wind turbines off the Sussex shoreline, in an area of the English Channel between 8 to 14 miles out to sea.

Cllr Ben Stride – who represents Shoreham Beach residents in Adur District Council’s Marine Ward – said, “I knew the turbines would be visible, but it wasn’t until now that we realised just how visible.
“The tallest turbines are about 700 feet high to the rotor tip. That’s far higher than the Sussex Downs behind Shoreham. I would strongly recommend that local people take the opportunity to find out more about these plans and to register their views.”

The 700-megawatt Rampion windfarm will link to the National Grid at Bolney, with cables set to come onshore between Lancing and East Worthing.

The public consultation phase runs from Monday, February 13 to May 6.

For more information and details of how to comment, please visit www.eon-uk.com/rampion
For more information about SBRA and for a link to the off-shore windfarm site (on the news page), visit www.shorehambeachra.co.uk 

Media information: For further details, please contact Beach News editor Joss Loader on 01273 388419 or email joss@primarypr.co.uk

At the moment it feels like Rampion Offshore Wind Farm proposal is the best kept secret in Sussex. Let's change that to the most talked about before time runs out.

Back very soon.