Updated November 2013
Developer, RWE Innogy decided to scrap the plans for the 240-turbine Atlantic Array in November 2013, citing "now is not the right time". Changes within government green energy policy had resulted in less investment in renewable energy together with technological challenges that make the development economically unviable.
The potential development of the wind-farm attracted a lot of criticism from locals, environmentalists and the tourist industry who believed the turbines would have a negative visual impact from Gower, Lundy Island, Pembrokeshire and North Devon.
In 2008, The Crown Estate, who manage UK urban, rural and marine property on behalf of the Government in order to generate profit, launched a programme to lease areas of the seabed for the development of offshore wind generated energy.
The bid by RWE npower renewables for the Bristol Channel zone was successful and the renewable energy developers were awarded exclusive rights to plan the development of the Atlantic Array Offshore Wind Farm.
The proposed wind farm will be just 14 miles (23km) from the coast of South Wales and 10.5 miles (16 km) off the coast of North Devon; the turbines will be visible from the Devon, Lundy Island, Gower and Pembrokeshire coastlines.
Following public consultation during 2011 and analysis of the consultation during 2012, the project has had a number of revisions to the original proposals:
- A decrease in the number of turbines from 417 to 240
- An increase in the distance of the wind farm from the coastline
- A reduction in the area of the wind farm from 414km2 to 200km2
- A reduction in the density of the wind farm
The changes have resulted in a reduction in maximum energy capacity from 1500MW to 1200MW, but RWE npower renewables still estimate the energy generated will be sufficient to power 900,000 households.
Final plans are set to be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate in June 2013.
The position and location of the proposed wind farm
View Atlantic Array Offshore Wind Farm in a larger map
Visual and environmental impact
One of the main concerns of these proposals are the potential visual and environmental impact to the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty of the Gower Peninsula, Lundy Island and North Devon coastlines. Most of the amendments to the initial plans submitted by RWE are as a result of these concerns identified from public consultation.
The proposed view above was simulated by RWE as part of the consultation process before the recent reduction to the number of turbines; showing 278 turbines. A higher resolution version can be downloaded here: Viewpoint 26 Worm's Head adjacent to Lookout Station: Proposed Photomontage View © 2012 Channel Energy Limited.
Other viewpoints are available to download from the RWE website: Volume 5 - Offshore Seascape, Landscape & Visual Resources, Historic Seascape Character & Terrestrial Heritage Assets: Figures [PDF - 424MB - right click to save link due to large size]
Other arguments against
The proposed site is the habitat for populations of harbour porpoise, grey seal, northern minke whale and common short-beaked dolphin, all of which are protected under the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC.
It is also important to recognise that wind is only one source of renewable energy. The Bristol Channel has the second highest tidal range in the whole world and recent sea trials show that it would be possible to sustain hydropower generation on the sea bed which would have much less impact on the surrounding landscape.