The Atlantic Array North Devon Wind Farm is a key renewable energy project in the region. It is likely to affect tourism, environment and also the economy of the North Devon area. The project is a culmination of pressure on the government to switch to renewable sources of energy, as a shrinking global crude oil reserve is bound to tell upon oil prices eventually. Moreover, energy industry is also recognizing the unsustainable nature of fossil fuel consumption and are exploring alternative energy sources like wind, hydro and solar energy.
The project is initiated by Channel Energy Limited (CEL) – a wholly owned subsidiary of RWE Npower Renewables Limited. The place chosen for this project is the North Devon area. Since longitudinal and empirical data for wind farms across England are not easily available, the Atlantic Array North Devon project’s likely impact on local economy and ecology is a matter of predictions and projections. It is believed that the construction activity could have temporary effects on the environment due to cable laying and horizontal directional drilling activities. Temporary loss of habitat along the cable route and associated work compounds and access roads is also a possibility. Where substations will be established, the habitat loss could be irreversible. Habitats such as hedgerows, where dormice and bats thrive, could be broken up or fragmented by the cable route.
Natural and historical heritage sites in the area could also face alteration. For example, there could be loss of buried archaeological remains in and around the land allotted for the wind farm. The locality could become dusty due to heavy construction activity on the sites earmarked for cable routes. In terms of jobs creation, the project could create employment opportunity for locals during the construction phase. The other likely impacts of the Atlantic Array project are as follows:
“potential effects on private water supplies and groundwater quality that may result from construction works – potential effects on surface water resources associated with runoff from works along the cable route and longer term operational drainage from the substation site – effects on landholdings including the temporary or permanent loss of land and likely effects on the management of land due to construction activities.” (www.rwe.com, 2011, p.6)
The Offshore region faces its own set of changes due to the project. The suspended sediment concentrations in the marine waters could increase due to drilling and other construction activity in the seabed. Such an occurrence would likely impact some species in the marine habitat. Other species could adapt to the changes in the habitat by changing their behaviour patterns which is bound to be psychologically distressing to them. As for bird species that thrive on the shores of North Devon, their flight routes could be interrupted by Wind Turbines put in place – birds are likely to collide with these installations. The fishermen who make a living on the shores of North Devon would be impacted adversely, which can prove to be a blessing for many sought after fish species in the region. Other likely impacts are: “potential impacts upon other marine users, including recreational users, cable operators, aggregate industry, military activities and civil aviation– potential effects on communication systems, including radio links, and satellite communication system”. (www.rwe.com, 2011, p.7)
Atlantic Array Offshore Wind Farm, Pre-application Section 47 Public Consultation Guide, Produced September 2011, retrieved from < http://www.rwe.com/web/cms/mediablob/en/1066442/data/354740/1/rwe-npower-renewables/sites/projects-in-development/wind/atlantic-array-offshore-wind-farm/the-proposal/Consultation-guide-English.pdf>