The Telegraph article: Review launched into onshore impact of offshore wind farms
Published 10th November 2019 / Journalist: Steve Bird
The energy minister is to launch a review into the impact wind farms have onshore amid claims the countryside is being “concreted over” with substations and cable corridors built as supporting infrastructure.
The move has been welcomed by campaigners who have been fighting proposals in the East of England to build substations and cable trenches “the size of Wembley stadium” to get electricity from wind farms to the National Grid.
The activists are urging energy companies and the National Grid to develop an “offshore ring main” where the wind farms come online at the coast rather than inland.
Andrea Leadsom, the secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, has announced the review after meeting a delegation of MPs from Suffolk and Norfolk last month.
George Freeman, who is standing again to be Conservative MP for Mid Norfolk, has written to campaigners explaining how the review would analyse the environmental impact caused by a network of cable trenches and substations, as well as the possibility of an alternative offshore ring main.
He wrote: “We will be able (after the election) to look properly at the overall environmental implications for the offshore and onshore wind infrastructure as a whole.
“Norfolk and Suffolk has some of the most beautiful, valued and recognised wetland and onshore coastal habitats. It would be madness to damage these special environments by bringing renewable energy onshore in an environmentally damaging way.”
Campaigners say the southern North Sea is becoming the country’s “offshore energy powerhouse” with up to ten wind farms proposed.
While campaigners are not opposed to renewable energy at sea, they are concerned that planning permission for additional vast onshore plants are being given the greenlight because it deemed essential power network infrastructure.
Fiona Gilmore, of SEAS, the Suffolk Energy Action Solutions group, said residents fear major onshore plant was being rushed through.
“We are totally in favour of offshore renewables and wind energy but the delivery of that energy needs to be implemented in a responsible way, avoiding unnecessary devastation,” she said.
“Scottish Power Renewables [SPR] is planning to build a concrete jungle on virgin, coastal countryside to bring offshore wind energy onshore to connect to the Grid.
“SPR has not been put under any pressure to look for existing brownfield sites and there is no impetus on firms to develop offshore wind energy transmission infrastructure solutions.
“We need to be world leaders in the delivery of green energy not just in terms of producing that energy, otherwise that energy is no longer green.”
SPR, one of a number of energy companies building wind farms in the southern North Sea, was last night unavailable for comment.
The North Sea Wind Power Hub (NSWPH) has stated publicly that it wants to engage with both the Norwegian and U.K. authorities to pull them into the development of the offshore hub. As well as offshore wind expertise and access to the North Sea, both can also use oil and gas know-how to store hydrogen in offshore reservoirs and retrofit gas pipelines to transport hydrogen instead. A spokesperson for BEIS said: “The government recognizes the benefits of hybrid projects, including joint interconnector and wind projects, which may develop into efficient and cost-effective solutions to help the U.K. decarbonize. We are continuing to engage with stakeholders and developers to understand the potential benefits of these projects.”
Installing an additional 30GW within ten years will require significant changes to a range of policy frameworks, and co-operation between government and industry, writes Christopher Hopson