Offshore turbines – how do the arguments for and against stack up? Steven Smith asked a major protagonist and a major objector for their views...
THE public will be able to view plans of greater clarity for the controversial wind farm off the coast when the next round of consultation starts in February, says the project boss.
Mike Unsworth, who became project director for the Navitus Bay Wind Park, a partnership between Eneco and energy firm EDF, earlier this year, admitted that the company had not given people as much information as they could have in the past.
Speaking to the Echo, he said: “The amount of feedback that’s come from previous consultations has raised a lot of questions, so I’ve decided to commission new work, like new photo-montages, for the next round.
“One of the criticisms is it only showed one type of turbine montages, but as a developer we’re putting forward a range, so we need to show what it will look like at each point on the scale.
“We’ve listened to Challenge Navitus’s advice on how we need to present the information to make it easier for the public.”
The main thing to get across, Mr Unsworth said, is that the number of turbines depends on the type used.
For example, there could be as many as 330 smaller turbines to generate the site’s maximum capacity of 1,200megawatts, or as few as 100 larger turbines generating the minimum of 900MW.
See the visualisations created by both sides and read all our Navitus Bay stories at bournemouthecho.co.uk/navitus
Mr Unsworth added: “What we want to dispel is that there would be 330 of the largest turbines, that’s not the case. What I want to do is narrow that envelope to give more certainty and clarity to the public.”
He said the reason there was a range at the moment is because turbine technology is advancing, so by the time it comes to signing a contract in 2017, what was needed could be different to now.
The February exhibitions will also feature a 3D flythrough capable of showing people what the wind farm would look like from any position with any turbines.
One main criticism is the proposed farm’s proximity to the coast – the 76sq mile park would be around 10 miles off Bournemouth and eight miles off Swanage.
Mr Unsworth said: “The process was to look at all areas in the zone against criteria like engineering, environment, seascape, landscape and stakeholder assessment.
“A lot of the site has constraints, for example in the west there’s shipping issues. In the south we have a reef which is a special area of conservation. In the east you have navigation issues again and steep ground on the sea bed.
“So a number of constraints focused us into this central area.”
Mr Unsworth said Navitus had also worked with Bournemouth Tou-rism to liaise with tourism representatives.
He said it was anticipated the project could create 1,000 jobs, while around 100 people would be required to operate and maintain it once it was up and running.
Navitus expects to lodge a planning application at the end of 2013/ early 2014, with a decision in mid-2015.
If granted, construction would begin in 2017 and the farm would be in operation by early 2021.
Navitus answer key questions about the project
Were previous consultations inadequate?
“What we could have done better is to better explain the range and illustrate the range with better photo-montages.
“The level of consultation with statutory consultees is not in question, but what I would admit is the extent of information provided to the public could have been better.”
Will next round be more transparent?
“It’s not about transparency, it’s about the amount of information that’s been provided. There’s never been any intention not to fully inform, but there’s more information that we could have provided and we will provide. People will continue to have the opportunity to express their opinion or raise concerns right up until the time when we submit the planning application.”
Why is the Dorset one so close to shore compared to other similar schemes?
“The Crown Estate designed the original zone area and then we had to consider where it was feasible to do something and the restrictions focused us in the central belt of the zone.”
Why is it in the middle of a shipping lane and migration route?
“The main English Channel shipping has been covered by a line and they are south of where the farm will be.
“What we have done is carried out a very extensive nautical survey which has looked at the movement of vessels in the area over the past year.
“We have extensive data and what it shows is the hot spots.
“It gives us the real-time data to prove that there’s not a significant issue as regards traffic, but we’re talking to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Trinity House to look at some potential challenges.”