The following provides information with evidence and references on offshore wind farms in the UK that also help address some common myths:
- Wind Strength and the best locations for wind farms in the UK
- Impact on Tourism
- Protection of Birds
- Relative benefits and cost of wind farms around the UK
- New alternative renewables
Wind Strength and the best locations for wind farms in the UK
Wind farms are best located where the wind strengths are higher and more constant. The best measure to determine the best locations for wind farms is the Wind Power Density (WPD). The map below shows that large areas of the North Sea have areas in excess of 1000W/m2 whereas the area where Rampion2 is proposed has less than 300W/m2.
This explains why Rampion 1 has one of the lowest power outputs of UK wind farms with a 35% capacity factor. Compared with Hornsea 1B in Dogger Bank which has a much higher capacity factor at 56% (Data from the National Grid).
This means that a wind farm in Dogger Bank would generate about 60% more energy than one of the same capacity in the Sussex bay. This is important for two reasons: 1) the electricity from Dogger Bank would be significantly cheaper (about 2/3 of the cost) and 2) the CO2 impact would be lower. The manufacture and installation of wind farms creates significant CO2 emissions – but this is balanced by the renewable energy generated making them net negative in emissions once they have been operating for some time. Having 60% more energy output makes wind farms in Dogger Bank help us reach net zero much more quickly – a much greener alternative.
Each conventional wind turbine requires a significant quantity of rare earth minerals. These are in short supply globally and need to be used up carefully. This is a further reason for installing wind turbines only where they will be most efficient. For example, the GE Haliades X 13MW turbines use 7 tonnes of rare earth permanent magnets in their generator hub.
Impact on Tourism
Studies show that impacts on tourism are negative but vary as to how negative depending on how important tourism is to the local economy. While some argue that inshore windfarms will initially attract some people, the net impact will be negative, and this negative impact grows over the medium and longer terms in areas where the seascape is valued and intrinsic to socio-economic activities. Indications for West Sussex coast where tourism plays a significant role in the local economy and employment are likely to see a reduction in annual tourism income of up to 20% and the related degradation of community prosperity and wellbeing.
 20% is the reduction in tourism income projected by Bournemouth Borough Council in reference to the proposed Navitus Bay wind farm project (PINS reference EN010024).
Protection of Birds
Locating Wind Farms further offshore minimizes the impact on our birds. The Government Report (OESEA2 NTS) states on page XIV: “Therefore, recognising that a large proportion of the bird sensitivities identified are concentrated in coastal waters, it is recommended that the bulk of new Offshore Wind Farms (OWF) generation capacity should be sited away from the coast, generally outside 12 nautical miles (some 22km).”
The RSPB published a report in 2016 “The RSPB’s 2050 Energy Vision” where it indicated its vision on where wind farms should be located to minimize the impact on birds. As can be seen from Figure 4 of that report there are no recommended areas close to shore. Far out in the North Sea is identified as having low impact on birds.
Relative benefits and cost of wind farms around the UK
It has been suggested that siting a wind farm off the South Coast ‘makes sense’ as there is significant energy use in the south of the UK.
On closer examination – not only is electricity generated on the south coast significantly more expensive than elsewhere (as noted above), there will also be a significant additional cost to the electricity that would be supplied from the Sussex coast location of the proposed Rampion 2 wind farm because it would need an additional cable link from Clymping to Bolney where it would join the National Grid. The National Grid is very efficient in distributing electricity around the country and so the cost per kW of this additional cable link far exceeds the very small discount that the National Grid provides for connections in the South Coast compared with the North Sea. Wind farms in the North Sea would connect to the new National Grid offshore network transmission that the government has confirmed in the December 2020 Energy White paper. This will provide a much more stable and secure link, obviate any extra direct connection to shore, will be more reliable and will not only power the UK but also allow us to export to the EU in times of strong winds when we have too much wind capacity – instead of paying the operators to switch off. In conclusion, there are greater benefits and much lower cost electricity from a wind farm located in the North Sea compared with the Sussex bay. Siting in the North Sea really makes sense and is much greener.
New Alternative Renewables
The country should invest in new alternative renewables and not overstep the target with current technology:
7.98GW of extra capacity has been allocated by the Crown Estate (Round 4 Tender Stage 2). There is now 59GW available to meet the national target of 40GW by 2030 according to the March 2021 project listing.
It is particularly important not to go beyond the target with the current, already dated technology. We should only accept Truly Green Wind Farms. Driven by the urgent need to tackle climate change, there are novel renewable energy technologies emerging all the time. It is important not install too much of the current technology too quickly only to find much better solutions emerging fast, which will require us to rebalance the power generation, making some of the existing wind power redundant. Alternative renewables include: