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We need truly green wind farms that minimise harm

We are all aware of the existing Rampion wind farm. Tackling climate change is a national and global priority but, like any other aspect of the built environment, a wind farm needs to be sensitively and rationally planned to minimize harm.

This page describes the significant damaging impact that Rampion 2 would have if it went ahead, then it the presents a much greener option that would allow us to reach net-zero much more quickly.

A new wind farm, Rampion 2, is being proposed that does not minimize harm at all. Rather than an ‘extension’, it is a wholly different enterprise to Rampion 1 in many respects, requiring a new cable link to the National Grid, running from Clymping beach to a new 11-acre substation in Bolney – continuing the disturbance already caused there. What is being proposed risks bringing deleterious changes to the social, economic and natural environment of West Sussex.

The developers suggest that the new proposal means that the existing Rampion will ‘double in size’. On BBC South Today (on 14th January 2021), they justified this by saying the new wind farm would have the same number of turbines as Rampion 1. The proposal is indeed for up to 116 turbines, the same number as in Rampion 1.

However, the new turbines will be very much larger and more powerful, so they will have to be spread out very much more. Taken together with the existing wind farm, the total power would be four times the size (going from 400MW to 1600MW) and potentially spread out to cover up to five times the area, fencing in the Sussex Bay from Newhaven to Selsey Bill. To talk of merely ‘double in size’ is misleading. In public presentations, the developers have often left the impression that the new turbines would be only 50% taller. However, the turbines could be significantly larger at 2.35 times the height – each one taller than the Eiffel Tower – higher than the highest peak of the South Downs. And, given their positioning across a southern bay, with the sun behind them, and given that the blades of each turbine will cover nearly 4 times the swept area of an existing Rampion turbine, they will be very visible pretty much all the time. They would dominate the daytime horizon as dark and huge industrial towers – with flashing red lights at night. 

Some of this height and size data is buried on page 399 of Rampion’s 970-page Scoping Report published on the government planning website, is discreetly referred to on one of the banners in their virtual exhibition and confirmed in the recently published PEIR

Figure 1: Relative sizes of the turbines from Bognor Regis promenade

When viewed from various locations along the coast, the new turbines would appear even taller still. The graphic above shows how from Bognor Regis, for example, the Rampion 2 turbines would appear 4.2 times the height of the closest current turbine. However, the average relative height of the turbines in the observer’s central view would be 5.2 times higher (assuming the observer is 5m above sea level, standing on the promenade; the Earth curvature has been accounted for).

The proposed Rampion 2 is also an inshore – not offshore – wind farm. Five years ago, wind farms in the UK were on average 17 ½ miles offshore [Ref2]. By 2019, the average for EU wind farms had increased to 37 miles [Ref3]. The Prime Minister has announced a new target of 40GW of wind power by 2030 (increased from 30GW), with wind farms sited ‘far out in the deepest waters’ (6/10/20).

Government Guidelines (follow the link OESEA2 and look at page xv) recommend all new wind farms should be in offshore waters (i.e. more than 14 miles from the shore), and that for the larger turbines proposed they should be at least 25 miles offshore (see the White Report Table 7.4 page 66, produced for OESEA3) for low visible impact.

Rampion 2 completely ignores all this. It would be sited almost wholly within INSHORE waters, only 8 miles from shore. NOWHERE on the UK Coast are there such large turbines so close to the shore and NOWHERE on the UK Coast is there a Wind Farm spanning such a large proportion of the horizon (in operation, under construction, or with a planning application filed).

If the proposed Rampion 2 inshore project goes ahead, the impact spreads wide. Only last year, David Attenborough explicitly expressed concern that ‘dredging to install cable to offshore wind farms changes the seabed and its wildlife forever’ [Ref5]. This forbidding fence of massive turbines is also likely to cause the coastal economy in West Sussex to go further into decline. Those who come here for the sea views and invest in the area will increasingly shun this part of the Sussex bay – choosing to go to more attractive locations instead. Unless the wind farm were moved more than 13 miles further offshore, it would have a significant impact on key viewpoints in the South Downs National Park. When the SDNP was designated, great weight was given by the Planning Inspector to the quality of the seascape and the extensive and uninterrupted views from the South Downs out to sea.

The Rampion 2 developers are not considering going further offshore, however, and claim they cannot do this due to shipping only a few miles further out. This is effectively an admission that the West Sussex bay is not a suitable site.

Elsewhere – such as the Dorset Navitus Bay wind farm proposed in 2015 – the Planning Inspectorate has turned down applications due to visual impact on designated sites and potential harm to the local economy. The visual footprint of Navitus Bay was only slightly larger than that of the current Rampion 1 – with the latter itself deemed to be only just acceptable for visual impact on the SDNP when consented in July 2014. But Rampion 2 would be very much taller and larger and would span over 100 degrees of the horizon from several viewpoints. The harm of Rampion 2 would, therefore, be very much more significant than Rampion 1 and, like the Navitus Bay project, should be rejected.

There is a greener way forward. The Crown Estate has just announced (Round 4 Tender stage 2) a new tender opportunity for leasing other wind farms in the North Sea. There remains over 145 times the area that Rampion 2 would require – beyond what is needed to meet the entire UK 2050 net-zero target with no visual harm.

This area is completely different from the Sussex Bay. Wind farms can be 100 miles offshore on Dogger Bank, for example, and in shallow water. They can connect to the new National Grid offshore network transmission that the government has confirmed in the December 2020 Energy White Paper: Powering our Net-Zero Future. This will provide a much more stable and secure link, obviate any extra direct connection to shore, will be more reliable and will not only power the UK but also allow us to export to the EU in times of strong winds when we have too much wind capacity – instead of paying the operators to switch off.

This region of Dogger Bank has the additional benefit that the winds are stronger and more constant than close inshore in the Sussex bay.

RWE states that the proposed 1,200 MW wind farm, Rampion 2, would power 1 million homes (based on an average annual domestic household electricity consumption of 3,618 kWh). This calculation shows that Rampion 2 is expected to have a similar capacity factor (of 34%) to Rampion 1. There are three wind farms currently being built in Dogger Bank each equivalent in size to Rampion 2 at 1,200MW. Each one will power 2 Million Homes giving them a capacity factor of 69%. This is twice the efficiency of a wind farm in the Sussex bay and demonstrates that Dogger bank would be a much better place to build new wind farm than the Sussex bay.

This means that a wind farm in Dogger Bank would generate twice as much energy than one of the same capacity in the Sussex bay. This is important for two reasons: 1) the electricity from Dogger Bank would be significantly cheaper (about half of the cost) and 2) the CO2 impact would be lower for two reasons: a) when the wind is not blowing the electricity needs to be supplied by gas power stations and this backup generates CO2 emissions. The backup for Rampion 2 would generate 3.3Million Tonnes of CO2 emissions each year. The same size wind farm in Dogger bank would generate less than half as much at 1.6Million Tonnes and, b) The manufacture and installation of wind farms creates significant CO2 emissions – but this is balanced by the renewable energy generated making them net negative in emissions once they have been operating for some time. Having double the energy output makes wind farms in Dogger Bank help us reach net zero much more quickly – a much greener alternative


More information on truly Green wind farms.

HAVE YOUR SAY: email your objection TODAY to your local MP (either Nick Gibb, Sir Peter Bottomley, Mims Davies MP, or Andrew Griffith) at:  Nick Gibb, Member of Parliament for Littlehampton and Bognor Regis, gibbn@parliament.uk ; Sir Peter BOTTOMLEY, Member of Parliament for Worthing West, bottomleyp@parliament.uk ; Mims Davies, Member of Parliament for Mid Sussex, mims.davies.mp@parliament.uk ; Andrew Griffith, Member of Parliament for Arundel and South Downs Andrew@GriffithMP.com.

The Current Rampion Wind Farm

The Rampion wind farm arose from Round 3 of seabed leasing by the Crown Estate. Its allocated area covered 271sq km with an anticipated capacity of up to 700MW. In the event, less than one third of the area was used to build a 400MW farm with 116 140m-tall turbines. The turbine array extends from 8 miles to 12.5 miles offshore and covers up to 45˚ of the horizon when viewed from shore (this angle can be seen in Figure 1). Opinions are divided, but many people feel this is a significant blight on a previously unblemished seascape.

Figure 1: Rampion

The Proposed Rampion2

RWE has surveyed the area shown outlined on red in Figure 2 below for the proposed Rampion 2 project. This extension area is over four times larger than the current Rampion wind farm area. The combination of this extension with the current Rampion could thus be more than five times the area and would completely dominate the seascape from Selsey to Newhaven/Seaford. In most of the Sussex bay there would be barely any part of the horizon not covered with industrial turbines. Turbines covering such a broad angle would effectively fence in the coast of West Sussex and a significant part of East Sussex.

The cumulative impact on almost the whole of the Sussex coast would be transformative: from a variously peaceful, soothing, natural outlook to a feeling of being hemmed in by industrial machinery.

More than 50 miles of the coastal path would be impacted.

Such large turbines have never been built so close to the coast. Rampion is already acknowledged to have a negative impact on the Sussex coast and the South Downs National Park, and any extension would only make matters worse.

Figure 2 proposed Rampion 2

Please get involved

If you would like to get involved, or have any comments, then please email us at: admin@protectcoastalsusex.org or find us on one of our [as yet] unspoilt beaches…

References

[1] The Rampion 2 Scoping Report published on the Government Planning Inspectorate website. See page 399 for information on the turbine size.

[2] Prof. Gordon Hughes, University of Edinburgh; “Wind Power Economics/Rhetoric and Reality” published by the Renewable Energy Foundation.

[3] Offshore Wind in Europe: Key trends and statistics 2019 published by Wind Europe.

[4] UK Offshore Energy Strategic Environmental Assessment: OESEA2 Non-Technical Summary  published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change

[5] The Wildlife Trust’s Marine review 2020

[6] The Crown Estate, Offshore Wind Leasing Round 4 (see Update for information on Tender Stage 2)

[7] The Energy White Paper, Powering our Net-Zero Future. December 2020 published by the Business Energy and Industrial Strategy.

[8] Rampion 2 public consultation: https://www.innovision.ie/rampion2

[9] The National Grid’s Offshore Coordination Project

[10] The National Grid’s Multi-Purpose interconnector benefits

[11] On 6th October 2020 the Government announced £160M investment in Offshore Wind Infrastructure

[12] On 6th October 2020 the PM stated that new wind farms will be “Far out in the deepest waters …” see press release

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