Author Olle Akesson
E.On has announced the final plans for Rampion Wind Farm. 116 turbines, each one standing 142 meters tall, will generate 1,366Gwh each year. Its enough to power 290,000 homes and replace 600,000 tonnes of CO2. To put those numbers into context there are roughly 114,500 homes in Brighton & Hove and it is equivalent to the CO2 emissions of 125,000 passenger cars for a year.
Even if opinions on wind farms vary, I think everyone can agree that clean energy is a good thing. But construction, especially of marine turbines, must be carried out with a great deal of care and consideration for the environment.
The cable routes must be carefully chosen to ensure that they dont disrupt or destroy sensitive habitats. In particular there are rare chalk reefs on the coast of Brighton and if damaged these will never recover.
Most turbine foundations are hammered into the seabed using a method known as piling. This is an extremely loud process, exacerbated as sounds travels faster and further underwater. The developers will need to work in the appropriate season and use safeguards to ensure that sensitive species such as herring, seahorses and cetaceans are not harmed.
Once the site is operational there are other concerns. The foundations and pillars of the turbines create a new habitat and can be beneficial, acting like artificial reefs and sanctuaries for fish. But in some cases this new habitat is not aligned with the natural ecosystem and can alter the balance or facilitate invasive species.
The Sussex Wildlife Trust has been asked to take part in E.ON's Rampion Offshore Wind Farm's Environmental Project Liaison Group meetings. This gives us an opportunity to influence when and how work will be carried out so that environmental impacts can be avoided.
Wind farms have the potential to do a great deal of good but (and please excuse the pun) with great power comes great responsibility.