For the last few weeks, everything has taken a backseat to my script for Shoreham Wordfest, but as that nears its completion, I've had time to look at the Environmental Impact Assessment for the Rampion Offshore wind farm proposal.
By way of reminder, EON Climate and Renewables is applying for planning permission to build one of the world's largest wind farms off the Sussex Coast which, under certain conditions, could generate enough electricity to power 450,000 homes a year.
The site is 167km2, stretching from Worthing in the West to Newhaven in the East and would be around 13km out from the coast. Within this area EON proposes to construct between 100-195 wind turbines: 100 of the large 7MW class turbines, (124 meters above the sea but 210metres from the sea to the top of the blade tip), or 195 of the smaller 3MW class turbines, (116 meters above the sea but 180 metres to the blade tip). If built, the wind farm would have a lifespan of 20-25 years, with an option to extend it to 50 years.
The 12 week community consultation process on the proposal itself ended on 6th May and we are now mid-way through a second community consultation process on the findings of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) produced by RSK Environment Ltd on behalf of EON.
Copies of the EIA are available for public inspection at various venues, online at www.eon-uk/rampion or hard copies can be requested from Eleri Owen at FREEPOST RAMPION OFFSHORE WIND FARM and at email@example.com.
The EIA gives an overview of the proposed site as it stands today, the potential impacts should Rampion proceed, what can be done to mitigate them, and the long term legacy. To give you an idea of the scope of the potential changes, just the offshore section deals with the impact upon the seabed, organisms living on or in the seabed, fish and shellfish, nature conservation, marine mammals, marine ornithology, landscape, seascape and visual impact, marine archaeology, navigation and shipping, communications, civil and military aviation, socio-economics, commercial fisheries, and other marine users such as surfers, swimmers, sailors, and divers.
Today I'm going to focus primarily on some of the potential offshore impacts, and first up is navigation and shipping.
In my earlier blog I explained that the proposed wind farm would be built across one of the worlds' busiest shipping lanes. Whilst recreational sailors could still sail through a wind farm, commercial vessels cannot forcing Ship's Masters to deviate from their normal course with the potential of,
- an increase in commercial vessel collision risk
- an increase in collision risk for fishing vessels and recreational craft
- electromagnetic interference in recreational craft navigation equipment
- an increased number of Search and Rescue incidents and reduced Search and Rescue access within the site.
(EIA section 2.8.102)
- blocking/reflecting GPS signal from the satellites to the receiver
- blocking/reflecting mobile telephone signal
- blocking signal for marine communications - LRIT
- degradation of marine communications - VHF radio
- Obstruction and reflection of TV signal
(EIA section 2.8.108)
Moving onto the local commercial fishing industry, Shoreham Port is one of the largest fishing ports between Brixham, Devon and Lowestoft, Suffolk as well as being England's foremost port for scallop landings. The potential impact on this industry includes:
Take care of yourselves.
- loss of traditional fishing grounds
- major/moderate impact on the UK driftnet fishery and pair trawlers
(EIA section 2.8.146)
The Sussex coast is also used for various forms of recreational activities such as swimming, boating, angling, diving, spearfishing and surfing. Indeed this area has some of the best wreck diving in the world. Rampion could affect all these activities by:
- modifying the wave regime
- increasing the amount of suspended sediment in the water during the construction phase ( 4 years)
- indirect noise and vibration impacts
- underwater noise from piling which can cause serious injury and discomfort to divers and spear fishers.
(EIA section 2.8.150 - 2.8.160)
Interestingly the report says that whilst the base of the turbines may attract newly established habitats, "there will however be a 50m exclusion zone around each of the wind turbines, meaning that divers, and spear fishers will not be able to approach turbine structures directly, thus limiting to some extent the overall beneficial impacts." (EIA section 2.8.160)
I will leave the potential impact of Rampion on marine mammals, marine ornithology and nature conservation to another blog, but I just wanted to leave you with a few thoughts about the potential impact on the sea bed itself. These include:
- indentations in the seabed and disturbance to coastal morphology
- increased suspended sediment (sand and silt) concentrations
- change in the level of the sea bed
- changes to the wave and current regimes
(EIA section 2.8.14 - 2.8.16)
The environmental impacts of this proposal are huge and the potential change to the seascape is just the start. So if you have a view, express it to your local MP and EON at firstname.lastname@example.org or FREEPOST RAMPION OFFSHORE WIND FARM before 8th August. After that EON will submit its application to the Infrastructure Planning Commission and we will enter the third and final phase of the public consultation.
I'll be back again next week with further extracts from Rampion's EIA.
Take care of yourselves.