Wind Farms and their Coastal Impact

Offshore wind farms are an important part of our renewable power supply but, just like any other major industrial development, they need to be carefully planned. Their uniquely extensive footprints and high visibility mean that they impact a very wide area. Factors such as the shape of the turbine array, its distance from the shore, the number and size of turbines and their relationship to the coastline all affect the perception of the result.

We are blessed in the UK with a world-class coastline that attracts millions of visitors to beaches, cliffs, and long-distance paths every year. Distant views out to sea are very much a part of this attraction. Apart from the obvious environmental asset, the coasts are a vital economic asset for communities that often rely upon tourism. The government recognises the need to revitalise coastal communities and the importance of encouraging new, entrepreneurial businesses. The coastline and sea views help to attract such businesses. We need to ensure that the coastal environment is protected to maintain this unique asset. Not everyone enjoys the sight of machinery in the seascape and many people would prefer to see nature unblemished, so where it is necessary to have wind farms, there is excellent reason to limit their impacts as much as is technically feasible.

Given a choice of layouts, wind farms that span a small proportion of the horizon have less visual impact than those that fence in a large part of it. Ribbons of turbines that parallel a coast have a far higher visual impact than those that are grouped together and extend seawards, away from viewpoints on shore.

Very large modern turbines are easily visible for many miles, limited only by atmospheric clarity. Being so tall, with rotating blades that contrast with the static, linear horizon, they also dominate a seascape unless they are many miles out to sea.

Turbines tend to be most visible when silhouetted against the sky, so arrays generally to the South of a coastline (with the sun behind them) are more perceptible than those to the North. Proposals off the south coast therefore potentially have a higher visual impact.

Moreover, turbines in the mouth of a bay affect a very much longer stretch of coast than those that are sited off a headland.

All these factors are important in reducing harm to valued landscapes and seascapes. We also need to locate wind farms far away from National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Heritage Coasts to preserve their natural character.

The Sussex coast, both a southern coast and a bay, is highly vulnerable to losing its attractiveness through insensitive wind farm construction.

Impact on the West Sussex Coast

The County and District Councils have a number of initiatives to help
regenerate the coast of West Sussex. Regeneration of our coast is very
important as there are areas where living standards and wages fall well short
of the national average. Our coastline is a unique asset that attracts
tourists, visitors in search of well-being, and lifestyle migrations of skilled
people who can start up entrepreneurial businesses.

BUT wind farms damage our seaside views and beauty, deterring people
otherwise attracted to live here, stopping the businesses that incomers can
generate and stifling the economic benefits that visitors and incomers bring.
If we destroy the beauty of our coastline – replacing it with a seascape of
industrial wind turbines – regeneration is likely to stall or even go into
reverse. This may not happen overnight – but the bay will certainly gather a
poor reputation fairly quickly, becoming an industrial power plant rather than
any kind of soothing or attractive seascape.

For more information or to get involved please contact