(Last Updated On: 22nd February 2012)

Eon have bought the development rights to a patch of seabed off the coast of Sussex.  They are planning to develop an Offshore Wind Farm which will sit 13km off the coast and which will generate 700MW of electricity.

After years of planning, the development is now in consultation phase giving the public a chance to learn about the proposed development, ask questions and submit their views. See Eon’s website for the full details.

A representative from the Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce was invited to the launch event held on the 6th February at the Brighton Dome.  As a member of the Steering Committee of the Green Group I was lucky enough to go to represent the Chamber.

The atmosphere was one of excitement mixed with concern.  I’d recommend you go to one of their public events to see the exhibition for yourself. Or read the full Consultation Document.

I’ve been involved with renewable energy through the Brighton Energy Coop over the last 2 years, but can’t class myself as an expert.  However I thought it would be useful to set out some key facts and myths below.

This Wind Farm at 700MW will consist of up to 195 wind turbines, dependent on the spread and type used. The electricity generated could power the equivalent of 450,000 homes, i.e. 2/3rds of the houses in Sussex. You’ll be able to see the turbines from the tip of Beachy Head to Bognor Regis.

The electricity generated will be bought onshore using underground cabling at the boarder of Worthing and Lancing, crossing Brooklands Pleasure park (when I was a little girl I went boating at Brooklands).  The cabling will continue underground to a new substation at Bolney in mid Sussex (adjacent to the existing substation).

The electricity generated is owned by Eon and will go into the national grid. This development will add to the renewable energy element of Eon’s overall energy mix.  The electricity generated, although off the Sussex coast, does not go to Sussex houses. This is a common misconception.  This development will not reduce our energy bills locally.

There is a myth that wind turbines generate noise pollution, which is often cited as a reason to block onshore wind farms.  You can find conflicting views, but information by RenewablesUK appears balanced.  Needless to say if the turbines are 13km offshore noise should be minimal.

The seabed will need to be disturbed, which may damage ecosystems. However, there is some research to suggest that new ecosystems based on reef formations occur around the new structures.

You may have seen the sensational story in the Daily Mail titled ‘Wind Farms can actually increase climate change’. I think this blog by The Carbon Brief sets out a decent rebuttal.

There will be scarring to onshore locations after the underground cabling is laid, and I’d recommend you view the maps to see if this will impact you. The South Downs National Park are involved in discussions where cabling impacts the park.

I expect Eon will make a very reasonable return on capital for the project due to the heavy Government subsidies for this type of renewable energy. I wonder if this means they will be able to reduce the electricity prices charged to their customers……

Hopefully I’ve given you some facts and addressed some of the myths.

In my humble opinion Wind Farms are an essential part of the renewable energy mix. Once constructed, other than maintenance costs, we don’t have to pay for the wind.  Fossil Fuel and Nuclear Power Stations have ongoing costs to buy in materials and also to safely remove hazardous waste.

So other than the benefits to the climate how will Rampion benefit Sussex?

  • The project will create between 65 and 85 permanent jobs in the local area.
  • There will be a permanent Operations and Maintenance base at either Newhaven or Shoreham port.
  • Eon aim to use local companies to provide services such as construction, vessels and engineering.
  • The whole project will take 2-3 years to construct and hence there will be an indirect effect on local hotels and local businesses from the use of non-local contractors.
  • After construction there is likely to be a visitor centre which will act as a tourist attraction.

Eon have stated “We’ll try to use local labour and services as much as possible during all phases of the project”.

I’ve sent a few questions into the Consultation to further explore the above benefits and the opportunities for local businesses.  My main concern is that constructing an Offshore Wind Farm will require specialist contractors/vessels etc and that local businesses may not have existing experience.  Could this be an opportunity for local businesses to partner with non-local specialists to expand their service offering? When we will know more about what opportunities there are for local businesses?

I’m waiting to hear back.

Lastly, where did the name Rampion come from? Rampion is the county flower of Sussex, and was the entry of Davison High School into the naming completion. Davison was my old High School.  Small world.

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