Offshore wind farm

North Devon atlantic wind farm scaled back after protests

A multibillion-pound offshore wind farm project is being scaled back after protests.

The Atlantic Array project in the Bristol Channel between South Wales and North Devon is expected to provide energy for up to a million homes when it becomes fully operational within the next decade.

However developer RWE npower renewables confirmed the physical size of the £3 billion scheme has been cut from a maximum of 417 turbines to 278.

The announcement comes in the wake of a landmark ruling at the High Court, where Mrs Justice Lang ruled in favour of preserving the landscape of the Norfolk Broads, rather than allow for four giant turbines to be built on the site.

Environmental campaigners have praised the Atlantic Array developers for taking notice of concern about the potential size and spread of the turbines, which, at their tallest, could stand 722ft (220m) above sea level.

Members of a North Devon campaign group have accused the developers of making token alterations to the plans, following its first public consultation in January and ahead of its second in July.

"This announcement is a ploy to make it look as though the developers have bowed to public opinion," said a spokesman for the Slay the Array group.

In fact, they have not reduced the size of the development at all. Like the 'extra' consultation, this is part of a carefully choreographed PR campaign."

Robert Thornhill, development manager for Atlantic Array, said no decision had been made on the precise number of turbines, or their individual output.

"We have always said that we will apply for planning permission for turbines between 3.6mw and 8mw," he said.

"The sizes of turbine we are considering have not changed.

"We have, however, reduced the maximum number of turbines for which we will apply for planning consent, from 417 to 278, following responses to our public consultation and our environmental and engineering studies to date.

"We will apply for planning consent to build Atlantic Array with up to 1500mw capacity but have significantly reduced the horizontal view of the wind farm from the closest points.

"We have also reduced the wind farm site area by almost one-third from 414 sq km to 238 sq km."

The reduction in turbines and the wind farm area has moved the project out of a location towards the north west of the site, which had been found to be used by a relatively higher number of birds and marine life, as well as by fishing vessels.

Atlantic Array is one of more than a dozen UK offshore wind farms earmarked for construction within the next decade, as the government seeks to meet ambitious targets for generating clean energy.

Mike Birkin, South West campaigner for Friends of the Earth welcomed the revised plans.

"This is pleasing - it obviously shows that the first consultation stage has not been an empty gesture," he said.

"The firm has listened. There is an environmental reason for developing this site anyway, and offshore energy is having a huge impact on contributing to the South West being a massive part of the bonanza that is offered by a new industry."

The firm is hoping for permission to build at the beginning of 2014, and connection to the National Grid by October 2016, with further phased connection dates through to 2019.

This week, the High Court ruled plans for four 328ft (100m) turbines in Hemsby, on the edge of the Norfolk Broads, would harm the natural landscape.

The proposal from Sea & Land Power and Energy had already been rejected by both council and government inspectors.

The court ruling was seen as a landmark case in tipping the balance in favour of local landscape, rather than national energy need.

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