Rampion Offshore Wind Farm and Ecology
By Judith Heron
Last week I was lucky enough to go on a boat tour of the new Rampion Offshore Wind Farm, organised by the Green Growth Platform of Brighton University. This impressive feat of engineering sits between 13km and 20km off the Sussex Coast and will create 1,400 GWh of clean energy each year – enough to power around 350,000 homes. It’s the first wind farm on the south coast and Urban Edge Environmental Consulting is proud to have played a small part in this huge project.
The operation consists of 116 offshore wind turbine generators, an offshore and onshore substation and 27km of cable carrying the energy generated to the national grid at Bolney. The wind farm is controlled and managed from the Operations and Maintenance base at Newhaven Port.
Before our boat set off from Brighton Marina we heard from Rampion’s Engineering Manager Naren Mistry, who explained some of the history behind the project. The energy company E.ON was awarded development rights for the site back in 2010 and extensive consultation and investigations followed. Before applying for planning consent, a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was carried out, examining potential impacts to the physical, biological and human environment, both on and offshore. The go ahead for the project was given in 2014. The onshore cable route was laid, the foundations were installed offshore and the first of the turbines was erected in March 2017. All 116 are now completed and have started delivering power to the grid. The site will be fully operational later this year.
Extensive ecological surveys were carried out by RSK along the cable route and at the site of the onshore substation. A number of sensitive species were identified including badgers and great crested newts (GCN). Existing badger setts were closed and new ones created, new ponds were reinstated for the GCN and 9km of newt fencing was used to protect them from injury or disturbance during construction. Rampion has also made significant contributions towards enhancing the ecology and landscape of the wider area, including hedgerow enhancements, ecological monitoring programmes, public rights of way improvements and seed programmes at Kew. Offshore, construction was paused to accommodate the breeding season of the black bream, while ornithological studies concluded that the wind farm would not present any significant impact to birds in the area.
Reptile Translocation at Newhaven Port
In 2015 UEEC was commissioned to work on the site at Newhaven East Quay where the Operations and Maintenance base for Rampion was to be built. The 2.3ha construction site was home to low populations of slow worms, grass snakes and common lizards. To determine the likely impact on reptiles, we first conducted a population estimate survey of the construction site. The creation of a 3.5ha nature reserve was to be the focus of mitigation and compensation for the impacts of the port expansion. Population surveys were also carried out on the proposed nature reserve (PNR). It was concluded that the PNR already supported an exceptional population of common lizards, and low populations of slow worm and grass snake. Following enhancement (including creation of hibernation and egg-laying habitats), the PNR would provide a suitable receptor site for a translocation. After the translocation was completed a destructive search rendered the construction site unsuitable for reptiles, planning consent was granted and building commenced. The facility was officially opened in May 2018, it has created 60 permanent jobs and been a catalyst for further regeneration at Newhaven Port. See our Case Study for more details about this project.
The Boat Tour
It took around 40 minutes to reach the wind farm by boat. When you get up you get a sense of how big it is. From the land it looks like the turbines could be positioned in a straight line but actually they are spread out across an area of 72 square kilometres. They’re also huge – if you include the blades, they’re each as tall as the Brighton i360. Despite their power, the atmosphere when you’re amongst the turbines is one of peace and serenity. I was expecting noise but they’re surprisingly quiet.
It was a really enjoyable trip, helped of course by the beautiful sunshine, but it wasn’t just the weather that created this sense of positivity and optimism – this project is a success story in how we can provide alternative clean, green, renewable energy and reduce CO2 emissions. It’s a step in the right direction in the fight against climate change and we are very proud to have it on our doorstep.
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