World's largest offshore wind farm plan given a stormy reception

A A A

Bill Boggia remembers well the last time Graveney was gripped by fears of invasion having arrived in this village of saltmarsh and sunken lanes in north-east Kent in 1940.

Then it was the Nazis who threatened to emerge from the shallow waters of Whitstable Bay. Now Mr Boggia, 77, and some 200 local residents are digging in for what they consider to be another struggle against an overwhelmingly powerful opponent.

Cleve Hill, a gentle slope of arable land above the village, has been chosen by the consortium building the London Array wind farm for the construction of the electricity sub-station which will "land" undersea cables carrying 1,000 megawatts of power generated by its 341 turbines.

It is a vital part of what will be the world's biggest offshore wind farm, generating along with a second scheme off nearby Thanet, enough electricity to power nearly a million homes.

The £2bn project announced yesterday by Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Alistair Darling and the Environment Secretary David Miliband, has been hailed as a landmark in Britain's battle to reduce CO2 and combat global warming.

"We expect this will be the first of a number of large-scale offshore windfarms in the UK ," said Mr Miliband. "We are reinforcing the UK's commitment to renewable energy and combating climate change and ocean acidification," he added.

The news received the blessing of Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which dropped its opposition to the Thames Estuary schemes after assurances over breeding birds.

But Mr Boggia, whose family owns and runs several caravan parks around Graveney, is unconvinced. Pointing to the patchwork of medieval fields that stretches out from his living room on the side of the hill, he said: "I'm more worried about what these plans will do to this landscape and our way of life than I ever was about a Nazi invasion on the beach. We have spent 50 years since the Second World War battling to ensure that this unique habitat is not changed or scarred by big developments. We're not going to be beaten by this one either."

London Array, led by Shell and the German power conglomerate E.ON, argues that Cleve Hill, situated 800 metres from the shore, is the only suitable site for its £3m sub-station after producing an exhaustive study which considered factors from cost and accessibility to the impact on shipping lanes and bird life.

This summer, the local Swale Borough Council's planning committee threw out an application to build the sub-station, housing eight massive transformers, despite a recommendation from its officers to approve the development. The matter will be resolved by an independent planning inspector at a public inquiry scheduled to take place next March.

Much is at stake for the Government, which is committed to meeting 20 per cent of Britain's energy needs from renewable sources by 2020. To do so, it must massively expand the number of windfarms. The Thames Estuary schemes - six times bigger than anything else in the world - will supply 1,300 megawatts of energy - nearly doubling the existing supply of wind power.

Offshore wind farms offer the greatest potential for renewable energy. Invisible from land, they have not faced the noisy opposition encountered by onshore schemes, which critics say destroy the splendour of the natural landscape. While it is estimated a third of the UK's electricity could one day be generated offshore, take up has been slow, partly because of the increased costs.

"So far development offshore has been disappointing and hasn't lived up to the Government's aspirations," said Rob Gross, head of policy at the UK Energy Research Centre and a co-author of the 2002 Energy Review. "The premier reason is because the Government underestimated the amount of support it would have to give to get a new technology off the ground," he said.

In Graveney, however, feelings are running high. Tim Baldwin, a teacher and chairman of the campaign group Graveney Rural Environmental Action Team, (Great) said: "At the end of the day there is tremendous political will in Westminster for the windfarm project to go ahead. We are all for green energy, which is why we don't accept the need to damage our environment to make this project work."

Blot on the landscape or future of energy?

* Are they efficient?

The big problem with wind power is the energy generated depends on weather. Turbines start operating at wind speeds of 10mph, reaching maximum output at 33mph. At 55mph they must be shut down. Opponents say there is no guarantee the wind will blow within this range at peak need. It is impractical to store energy so non-wind back up power stations must be operated in tandem. But supporters say wind farms operate for up to 80 per cent of the time - similar to coal, gas or nuclear plants.

* Are they a blot on the landscape?

Vocal pressure groups, such as Country Guardian, say they can damage tourism and divide communities. The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England and the National Trust have opposed applications in beautiful areas. Local authorities have also proved hard to convince. Opponents claim turbines are noisy although the British Wind Energy Association says they are inaudible at distances of 1km.

* Is wind energy too expensive?

The Government looks like it will fail to meet its targets for generating off-shore wind power. Work has yet to start on 10 of the 17 offshore schemes given the go-ahead compared to the 160 on-shore farms already built or under construction. The Energy White Paper looks set to raise the financial reward for offshore power which is 50 per cent more expensive. On-shore wind energy also remains more expensive than gas-fired power stations. Supporters say expanding wind power is the only way the Government will reach its target of supplying 20 per cent of Britain's energy by 2020 from renewable sources.

* Are wind farms bad for the environment?

Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace welcome them because 99 per cent of energy is carbon-free. The RSPB dropped its objection to the Thames Estuary plans after it was assured that a wintering colony of birds would not be harmed. But it continues to oppose the massive on-shore scheme in Lewis where 181 turbines are planned because it threatens important species, including golden eagles. Supporters say it safeguards traditional farming.

Jonathan Brown

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
football
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
News
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
News
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?