From Round 3 to the final wind farm site
In 2008, nine strategic zones were identified for what is known as ‘Round 3’, the third licensing round for offshore wind farms.
Instead of the smaller projects from Rounds 1 and 2, which were situated nearer to shore in shallower waters, these were larger zones designed to accommodate larger wind farms that could benefit from the more advanced, proven technology following the success of the earlier projects.
Larger wind farms offer economies of scale and have enabled the industry to bring the costs of offshore wind down considerably, while maximising the contribution the technology can make to securing UK energy supplies and tackling climate change. Note however, that in the case of Rampion’s zone, Zone 6, the project evolved to become a single wind farm in the strategic zone and is the smallest Round 3 wind farm around the UK, more on a par with a Round 2 project. Rampion is the first and only wind farm off the south coast of England.
The nine strategic zones were established following a ‘Strategic Environmental Assessment’, which essentially investigated technological, engineering and environmental issues. These included, for example, water depth, shipping lanes, marine ecology, seabed geology, wind speed data etc, which when overlaid onto a chart of UK waters, led to the proposed zones. Zone 6 could not migrate further south due to the Traffic Separation Scheme – the English Channel shipping lane.
Within the zones, the developer who secured a licence with The Crown Estate, manager of the seabed, in this case E.ON, had then to conduct much more in depth investigation and analysis of the seabed geology, marine ecology, available turbine and foundation technology, grid availability, local stakeholder concerns and all other related elements, in order to formulate draft proposals. Zone 6 is a very complex site from a bathymetry and geological perspective. When coupled with the technology available, stakeholder feedback and comprehensive engineering, technical and environmental surveys, we optimised the scheme to produce the final site boundary that the wind farm sits within today.
It should be noted that there is a cliff face underwater to the south of the Rampion site, paleochannels (old river beds with silt) and much deeper waters as you go further south into Zone 6. The technology required to support turbines in waters up to 62m deep was not proven to a sufficient degree to give confidence at the time of design, and it was also likely to have been prohibitively expensive.
In 2012, the team spent most of the year formally consulting the local community, with 390,000 flyers being sent to households in Sussex, advertising in the local press and broadcast media, a poster and leaflet campaign, links to council and neighbourhood websites, a Facebook page, presentations to community groups and emails to 2,500 stakeholder organisations in Sussex. Fourteen public exhibitions were held with 4,500 people attending and 1,500 written responses, which all fed into the mix as we continued to refine our proposals.
In 2013 there were 14 public hearings at the Brighton Centre where those who had commented on the draft plans could raise their concerns. Further refinements were made in light of this feedback to move the wind farm further from the Heritage Coast that lies to the east, avoid a popular fishing area known as the ‘9-miler’ and avoid local routes from the TSS to and from Shoreham Port.
The chart here shows Zone 6 in yellow, the proposed wind farm area upon which we consulted (orange), the wind farm area that was submitted in the development consent application (red), and the wind farm boundary awarded consent (purple).
Following further site specific engineering surveys and in consideration of stakeholder feedback, the scheme was optimised for 116 turbines as seen in the shaded area.