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Atlantic Array Windfarm

by In Wales Fri Sep 7th, 2012 at 02:48:10 AM EST

Fairly local to me is the proposed site of the Atlantic Array Wind Farm, which is facing predictable opposition from environmental campaigners and also locals who fear that the seascape will be ruined by the turbines. I'm personally not bothered by the prospect of turbines being a distant part of the landscape.

However, it is hard to get to the bottom of the potential environmental impact of turbine construction and operation in this area, the Outer Bristol Channel, which environmentalists claim is a breeding ground for Harbour Porpoises.

The Proposal - RWE Innogy

In June 2008, The Crown Estate, which manages the sea bed around the UK,  launched the third round of its leasing programme for the delivery of up to 25 gigawatts of new generation capacity from offshore wind by 2020.

RWE npower renewables submitted a bid to The Crown Estate for the Bristol Channel Zone. Our bid was successful and we were awarded the development rights for the zone which is located in the outer Bristol Channel.

In broadly the same area, the previous proposed Scarweather Sands windfarm was withdrawn in 2009 after the project was deemed "commercially unviable" by E.On and Dong Energy apparently due to the challenging seabed conditions and poor wind speed.

Under the new proposals, RWE state that they have conducted two years of surveys on marine mammals and their draft Environmental Impact Assessment is currently being consulted upon.

Following the initial round of consultation the plans were scaled back and the location of the turbines altered to reduce concerns about intrusion on the landscape.

BBC News - Atlantic Array wind farm plan reduced to 278 turbines

Plans for a wind farm in the Bristol Channel have been reduced from 417 to 278 turbines after public talks.

RWE npower renewables says it will also move the planned Atlantic Array Offshore Wind Farm a further 3.7 miles (6 km) away from the Welsh coast to 14 miles (22.5 km) at its closest point.

Here's a map:

The EIA states negligible effect on marine mammals such as the Harbour Porpoise and although temporary relocation may take place during construction, the Porpoises would come back and everything will be just fine. Campaigners state that it isn't just the noise of the construction but also noise from operational turbines that damage the hearing and health of the porpoises. The impact of operational turbines has been entirely overlooked by the report.

From the EIA pdf linked to above, RWE state:

None of the assessments found that significant adverse effects are likely to occur on seabed habitats or species, with either negligible or minor adverse effects identified. Effects were found to be localised and, with the exception of permanent habitat loss beneath wind farm structures, temporary in nature.

Cumulative effects arising from the wind farm when considered together with aggregate extraction activities are considered to be negligible upon seabed species within the study area. The potential protection afforded to these communities as a result of reduced fishing pressure within Atlantic Array and with the network of recommended Marine Conservation Zones (rMCZ) would result in effect of moderate to major beneficial significance.

A lot seems to be hinging on the outcome of a long awaited WWF report into proposed Marine Conservations Zones around the UK. It is argued that this area of the Bristol Channel should be designated as a MCZ which obviously would put a spanner in the turbines.

WWF Cymru have produced a response which I expect will feed into the UK wide one but I'm not too clear on that. There are currently no Marine Protected Areas in Wales.

A report by the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) highlighted that 60% of features in marine sites were in an unfavourable conservation status...

As such WWF considers it appropriate for Welsh Government to look at restricting damaging and impacting activities in a small number of areas. We, therefore, support proposals by the Welsh Government to use the provisions in the Marine and Coastal Access Act to designate some highly protected MCZs (hpMCZs), as part of a wider programme of measures.

If you have time, take a look at the video about a MCZ around Lundy Island which lies off the coast of North Devon, where the Atlantic ocean meets the Bristol Channel. (I can't hear it, so let me know if it is any good!)

Both UK and Welsh Governments are criticised for using a narrow evidence base that favours go-ahead for the wind farm and minimises any view of damage to the Harbour Porpoise population. Evidence to back up the claims of environmental campaigners don't seem to be well enough factored into the decision to push ahead on construction. The Governments still claim that there is not enough evidence that the porpoises do breed in the area. A lot of money and many vested interests are apparent here.

The Countryside Council for Wales have published a massive Marine Mammal Atlas for Wales and in most recent responses to the Atlantic Array proposals CCW talk about the need to mitigate the effect of piling on harbour porpoises.

the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended) and the Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats. &c.) Regulations 2007 prohibit the deliberate capture, injury, killing or disturbance of any wild animal of a European Protected Species (EPS). It is now an offence under both sets of Regulations to deliberately disturb wild animals of a European Protected Species in any such way as to be likely to significantly affect: a) the ability of any significant group of animals of that species to survive, breed, rear or nurture their young; or b) the local distribution or abundance of that species.

Harbour porpoises are a European Protected Species and the bone of contention for campaigners here is that the negative effect cannot be sufficiently mitigated, as suggested by CCW and others.

Apparently RWE in Germany have conceded that they should not undertake any construction work during May to September to avoid threatening the mother porpoises and their calves.

Protecting porpoises' hearing adds millions to wind farm projects - Telegraph

“A porpoise is doomed to die if its hearing is shattered,” Kim Detloff, a marine expert at German nature conservation group NABU, told Bloomberg. “The regulator must sanction developers if they repeatedly violate the noise limit.”

The concerns show that wind developers are beginning to face the same scrutiny as oil companies for projects in sensitive places, a trend likely to add costs and slim profit margins that already are razor-thin. That adds another hurdle to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s effort to build up offshore wind as an alternative to atomic power, a program that may cost €39bn (£31bn) by 2020.

I have only half begun to even start getting my head around all of this and I could point at at least 4 more hefty reports I haven't yet mentioned. So in conclusion, I don't have much of a clue about the balance of Harbour Porpoise vs Windfarm (renewable energy and jobs) argument. I'm open to your views.

Apparently reports exist stating that mitigation techniques do not work.  If I come across any, I'll add it in here.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Fri Sep 7th, 2012 at 02:52:32 AM EST
I'm interested in any reports stating that mitigation doesn't work, since mitigation of current technology is only now being tried. What is important to remember is that previous significant studies HAVE shown disruptions to harbor porpoise populations during construction (they leave) BUT when construction is finished they come back.

For example, because of harbor porpoises, in Germany there is no construction May - September (as stated) which does add to project costs. This would be the ideal time for construction as wind and waves are generally less, work weather is better, and of course as winter gets closer, conditions get far worse.

Further, it means a period of downtime or less activity for installation ships, although I'm not certain that turbine installation can't be done during this period. ( J? )

To put it into some perspective, drilling operations have significant acoustic effects (not to mention leaking poisons)

What is important to realize is that the offshore wind industry is being very proactive about environmental issues, at great expense, and can not be compared to offshore oil and gas at all. But here's a rig having to use a bubble curtain during drilling:

The net is replete with offshore wind reports to digest.

From Tree Hugger:

Harbor Porpoises May Get Shelter From Offshore Wind Farms

PS. Can't comment further, must focus elsewhere.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Fri Sep 7th, 2012 at 03:37:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Proper mitigation measures do work.

German Offshore Wind Companies Submit Noise Mitigation Research Report

Each of the noise mitigation systems manufactured as prototypes withstood the harsh conditions at sea and demonstrated the noise mitigating effect. When corrected for site-specific effects, the mitigation effect totalled up to nine decibel in the relevant range. This brought the noise level much closer to the noise emission limit of 160 decibel at a distance of 750 meters around the source of the noise. More research and development work is required on the basis of the ESRa project in order to meet the limit reliably in the future.

(The Test Rig)

"The offshore wind industry takes the protection of the environment very seriously when building and operating offshore wind farms. Basic research like the ESRa project is extremely important for a better understanding of the effects on the maritime environment and to initiate further measures", explained Jörg Kuhbier, Chief Executive Officer of Stiftung Offshore-Windenergie (Offshore Wind Foundation).

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Fri Sep 7th, 2012 at 04:02:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Probably because this is a Front Page diary, one can't recommend it, so click here and comment as the discussion develops. Thanks so much for posting this, In Wales.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Fri Sep 7th, 2012 at 03:16:08 AM EST
Thank you for contributing.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Fri Sep 7th, 2012 at 04:21:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You sound quite skeptical, and seem to be presenting offshore wind as Big Industry riding roughshod over the environmentalists, and that does not fit with reality.

Projects in offshore wind have taken pains from the start to take into account environmental impacts (and indeed that's why many zones are avoided or abandoned, and why plans are modified after studies are done (- as in this case, where the area has been reduced). They are then slapped with additional requirements (is it because other industries don't behave the right way and anything that industry proposes is insufficient by definition?).

Potential impacts have been identified painstakingly, and mitigants are implemented whenever possible, indeed at significant cost (no installaiton over the summer, bubble curtains and the like).

And as noted, the medium term and long term impacts will be largely positive - as offshore wind farms are no-access zones for any kind of activity, they are turning into natural preserves (fish in particular, but not only), and the existing ones have been shown to have no other impact on migratory birds (who avoid them) or big mammals (who come back after leaving for the construction period).

And naturally that ignores the very real impact of having less coal burned in the atmosphere and not sending our money to Russia, Iran or similar...

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Sep 7th, 2012 at 05:36:49 AM EST
I was trying to be fairly balanced in presenting the arguments.  My interest was sparked because I know local campaigners who are very passionate about protecting porpoises.  I posted a diary here because I know there are people who are very passionate about promoting wind technology who can present that side far more effectively than I can.

Locally, the plans for the Atlantic Array were significantly scaled back following public consultation. That doesn't say riding roughshod to me.

My skepticism is actually towards the decision makers.  There is a sense of wanting to rush forward on approving proposals (renewables targets, job creation) before firmly establishing the evidence base or ascertaining where protected zones are necessary to protect marine life.

Some people say wind farms are great big scam but every direction you look in there are vested interests and misinformation - so for the lay person, deciding whether or not to support wind power, it isn't easy to navigate.

If anyone does have links to reports on the benefits of mitigation, I'd be interested in passing those on.

I also live alongside a massive opencast which although no longer operational still causes health issues, leaves cars and houses filthy and will sooner or later cause a death since the site owners are still trying to secure extensions to continue mining and won't restore or properly secure the site in the meantime.  

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Fri Sep 7th, 2012 at 08:45:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's how the anti-wind crowd works - throw enough mud into the fan that people start having doubts just because they've heard all that "anti" noise.

Your open cast exemple is actually a good one - please consider an offshore wind farm and think about how it could damage the environment for you, or for more nearby stakeholders (fishermen, wildlife). Does it continually spew garbage into the sea? Does it generate massive volume of refuse? Is it very hard to uninstall?

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Sep 7th, 2012 at 09:20:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's a discussion here from a few weeks ago about onshore rather than offshore, but there are similarities in the way anti-wind has turned the tables on what used to be seen as good for the environment.

If you're running a PR campaign against something that has an excellent public image, it's no use fiddling about at the fringes. You identify the strong points and you turn them upside down.

Wind power is environmentally positive (little or no CO2 or other pollution)?
You say: wind power harms the environment (birds, bats, marine mammals, emits noise pollution, causes human health problems)

Wind power uses a free source of energy?
You say: it is diabolically expensive and fills the pockets of rich criminals

Windmills look clean, elegant, reassuring?
You say: windmills are a hideous encroachment on the landscape the sight of which causes anxiety.

Use the usual mix of think tanks, MSM compliance, political accomplices, campaigning associations, astro-turfers, and little by little you will create a "debate" or sow doubt in people's minds. Including the environmentalists who might once have been in favour of wind power.

Now, I'm not arguing that there is absolutely zero merit in these ideas, or that environmental impacts don't need to be assessed and dealt with (of course they must be). But mostly, these ideas do not correspond to reality (to be polite). And, over the last few years, they have gained increasing currency and can be come across pretty much everywhere.

Conspiracy theory? No, just the convergence of powerful vested interests. Exaggeration about criminals? Not even.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Sep 7th, 2012 at 12:07:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In Wales:
My skepticism is actually towards the decision makers.  There is a sense of wanting to rush forward on approving proposals (renewables targets, job creation) before firmly establishing the evidence base or ascertaining where protected zones are necessary to protect marine life.

In my experience if a project (a road, a building, a city bloc, a powerplant) is needed those in political power wants to build quickly so they get to finish it. Thus they get to set their stamp on it and have it as a monument of their time in power (and depending on political system, gather the larger share of the kickbacks). The opposition does not want to build right now, further studies are needed the alternatives need exploring and so on. If power shifts, so does the roles. Left and right does not appear to matter as much as in power and in opposition.

So in my experience it is perfectly normal for the decision makers to want to rush things. This of course says nothing about wheter further studies are needed in a particular case.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Fri Sep 7th, 2012 at 02:53:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Added to the Wind Power series.

Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Sep 7th, 2012 at 09:16:32 AM EST

SSE wind farm fully commissioned

StockMarketWire.com - All of the 140 turbines at Greater Gabbard, the 500MW (megawatt) offshore wind farm developed in the Thames Estuary by Greater Gabbard Offshore Winds Limited (GGOWL), a 50-50 joint venture partnership between a subsidiary of SSE (LON:SSE) and RWE npower renewables, have been commissioned and exported electricity.

GGOWL is now responsible for the day-to-day operation of the complete wind farm.

The venture remains in a contractual dispute with Fluor Limited, the principal contractor for the wind farm relating to the quality of up to 52 upper foundations (transition pieces) supporting turbines and the quality of up to 35 lower foundations supporting the same turbines and the ability of the structures to operate for their entire design life. In line with a prudent approach to safety, GGOWL has established a number of risk control measures, including access restrictions, in relation to the 52 foundations to enable these turbines to be able to generate electricity.

This will be (for a short time) the largest offshore wind farm in the world.

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Sep 7th, 2012 at 10:46:35 AM EST
Interesting. Valid concern.

Surely there are enough off-shore wind farms by now that this can be observed?

sapere aude

by Number 6 on Fri Sep 7th, 2012 at 11:05:58 AM EST
Not only are environmental effects already being "observed," they are being monitored by the most rigorous and costly studies that have ever been performed offshore. Far beyond the scale of studies on the very much larger offshore oil and gas industry.

The offshore wind industry can in no way be accused of ignoring the environmental effects of its activity.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Fri Sep 7th, 2012 at 11:25:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It clearly can be so accused. The ability to accuse does not necessarily correlate to any ability to substantiate the accusation...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Sep 7th, 2012 at 05:05:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for reminding me.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Fri Sep 7th, 2012 at 05:18:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Offshore wind farms are good for wildlife, say researchers
Dutch study finds birds avoid offshore wind turbines, while marine life finds shelter and new habitats

It is the evidence proponents of offshore wind farms have been waiting for: a Dutch study has found that offshore wind turbines have "hardly any negative effects" on wildlife, and may even benefit animals living beneath the waves.

The researchers reached their conclusions after studying a wind farm near Windpark Egmond aan Zee, the first large-scale offshore wind farm built off the Dutch North Sea coast.

Anti-wind farm campaigners have often argued that wind farms can have a negative impact on bird populations, while some critics have voiced concerns that offshore wind farms could prove disruptive to marine life.

However, Professor Han Lindeboom from the Institute for Marine Resources and Ecosystem Studies at Wageningen University and Research centre, said that the new study revealed little evidence of negative effects on local wildlife.

"At most, a few bird species will avoid such a wind farm. It turns out that a wind farm also provides a new natural habitat for organisms living on the sea bed such as mussels, anemones and crabs, thereby contributing to increased biodiversity," he said.

"For fish and marine mammals, it provides an oasis of calm in a relatively busy coastal area."

The research, sponsored by NoordzeeWind, a joint venture of Nuon and Shell Wind Energy, claimed that offshore wind farms actually have a beneficial long-term effect on wildlife.

The wind farm functions as a new type of habitat, the report said, detailing how new species are attracted to the turbine foundations and surrounding rocks.

The researchers also noted that the turbines help to protect schools of cod, and that porpoises are heard more often inside than outside the wind farm.

Meanwhile, the survey concluded that sea bird species such as gannets tend to avoid the turbines, while seagulls appear unflustered and local cormorant numbers even increase.

But never mind, let's pretend this has not been studied yet...

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Sep 7th, 2012 at 11:34:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]

sapere aude
by Number 6 on Fri Sep 7th, 2012 at 11:38:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can someone point to a technical explanation of how bubble curtains work?
by asdf on Sat Sep 8th, 2012 at 09:22:41 AM EST
There's lots on bubble curtains on the net, here's one avenue we seem to be traveling away from their use, but it explains well.

Pile Driving Noise Reduction Using New Hydro Sound Dampers

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sat Sep 8th, 2012 at 09:44:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok, it looks like the acoustic impedance mismatch at the water to air boundary causes reflection and back scattering of the sound. Hmmm.
by asdf on Sat Sep 8th, 2012 at 10:48:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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