How easy is it to plan, construct and start up an offshore wind farm? This blog by Sarah Gathergood, an environmental consultant at Groundsure, will take the reader through a timeline following the conception and development of the Rampion Wind Farm. If you have any questions or comments about this article, you can contact the residential consultancy team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2010 the Crown Estate awarded the UK energy company E.ON consent to build an offshore wind farm along the south coast of the UK . In 2011 Davison High School won a competition to name the new offshore wind farm. They chose the name ‘Rampion’ because it is the county flower of Sussex and is known as the ‘Pride of Sussex’ . During this year E.ON carried out the necessary geotechnical and geophysical site investigations beneath the seabed at the offshore site .
On Monday 13th February 2012 the draft plans for the proposal were released. Public exhibitions were held to display what the wind farm would look like from various lookout points along the coast. This also included a ‘fly-through’ simulation to enable viewers to get a close up look at the turbines . The company also held a 12 week community consultation period offering any interested parties the opportunity to voice their thoughts on the plans. This led to fine tuning and refinement of the plans and then in 2013 E.ON submitted an application for a Development Consent Order to the Secretary of State . These plans were examined by the Planning Inspectorate on behalf of the Secretary of State which included a two week period of public hearings where the proposals were further scrutinised by key stakeholders, local councils and statutory bodies .
Also during this year Rampion was defined under the Planning Act 2008 as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project because it will have an electrical output greater than 100MW .
Other work carried out by E.ON in 2013 included 6-8 weeks of onshore surveys to help work out the best way to lay the onshore cables. This included refining the width of the construction corridor, analysing ground conditions via trial pits and bore holes and identifying areas of archaeological importance . Measures were taken to lessen the impact of the survey work. This meant doing all work at the same time to minimise disturbance, restoring areas as soon as possible after surveying, digging boreholes and archaeological trenches in the same locations where possible, working during daylight hours and using existing access to fields . A supply chain initiative was created to seek to maximise opportunities for local businesses truction .
In 2014 the Planning Inspectorate formally examined the plans and as a result a few changes were made, including reducing the size of the site by 25% in order to lessen the visual impact of the wind farm on the Heritage Coast and also minimizing disruption to vessels using the route from the Traffic Separation Scheme to Shoreham Port, and to commercial fishing . As of 2014 E.ON had compiled two years’ worth of meteorological data which would help them to further refine their project and ensure maximum efficiency .
In autumn 2015, construction of the Rampion Wind Farm began . This started with onshore cable route works including topsoil stripping, duct lying, and trenching along the 27km route. Offshore construction got underway in February 2016 starting with the installation of the first foundation , by this time the jack up vessels were visible from the shore. For further information on the installation of offshore wind turbines, see this blog written by one of our consultants, Matthew Woodhatch (https://www.groundsure.com/blogs/offshore-wind-turbines). To comply with the planning conditions, foundation piling was paused between April and July to protect black bream nesting at the Kingmere Marine Conservation Zone .
Construction of the onshore cable route started in the southern area near Lancing and Worthing. To begin with work was concentrated around creating vehicle access points and haul roads so that construction traffic could be rerouted off the local roads [issue 6]. During this year the project completed its drilling at five main landmarks; the A27, River Adur, the railway line, A259 and Lancing beach. This was achieved using a technique called horizontal directional drilling (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Directional_boring) [issue 6]. This method was use to ensure roads and railways could remain open whilst the work was carried out.
A site of 7 hectares was cleared to make way for the construction of a substation in Bolney, West Sussex. Trees were planted to screen the substation and low fences were installed to protect newts and other wildlife by preventing them from accessing the site . Archaeologists worked along the cable route to define and record any finds which may have been exposed .
In order to keep the local community informed and updated on the project, a Local Liaison Group was set up and was actively involved with construction planning and sending regular letters to people living along the construction route . Also in 2015, two new shareholders were announced. The UK Green Investment bank now has a 25% stake and Canadian energy company Enbridge has a 24.9% stake, leaving E.ON with 50.1% of the shares and remaining the majority holder .
Offshore work was now well under way with two jack-up vessels in use for piling the foundations. Boulders were relocated to make way for construction. Any unexploded ordnances which required further assessment were identified. Pre-construction ecological surveys for monitoring purposes were carried out. These will continue throughout the project for a number of years to ensure the seabed has returned to a condition previously agreed with local authorities . Transition pieces used for supporting the wind turbine tower and boat landing were now being transported by boat from the Netherlands to the site, by this stage, two thirds of the foundation installations were complete .
This year, 2016, also saw controlled explosions of two World War Two bombs which were detected in earlier surveys near the site . Permission for this was given by the Marine Management Organisation. An information session was held for local fishermen, charter boat owner and diving and yacht club members to ensure sea user safety during construction of the project .
The project has been relevant in recent news as the UK signs a new climate deal with California  and as the cost of offshore wind energy installations falls over the last three years.  As of 2017 the project is still in its construction phase and the first turbine was erected in March this year . By 2018 E.ON expect the project to be commission and in full operation .
Project Statistics :
- 116 turbines each 3.45MW capacity and 140m tall (including blade height)
- Located 13km from the shoreline between Worthing and Seaford
- Total area size estimated at 122km2
- Will produce around 400MW of electricity per year
- Construction cost £1.3 billion
For more information about Groundsure reports related to this article, click on the following links:
- Rampion | Offshore – E.ON.”Rampion | Offshore – E.ON. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.
- E.ON. “Rampion Offshore Wind Farm Newsletter Issue 1.”Issue 1 – September 2011 Rampion Offshore Wind Farm(n.d.): n. pag. Sept. 2011. Web. 9 Apr. 2017.
- E.ON. “Rampion Offshore Wind Farm Newsletter Issue 2.”Issue 2 – February 2012 Rampion Offshore Wind Farm (n.d.): n. pag. Feb. 2012. Web. 9 Apr. 2017.
- E.ON. “Rampion Offshore Wind Farm Newsletter Issue 1.”Issue 4 – October 2013 Rampion Offshore Wind Farm(n.d.): n. pag. Oct. 2013. Web. 9 Apr. 2017.
- E.ON. “Rampion Offshore Wind Farm Newsletter Issue 1.”Issue 5 – September 2014 Rampion Offshore Wind Farm(n.d.): n. pag. Sept. 2015. Web. 9 Apr. 2017.
- E.ON. “Rampion Offshore Wind Farm Newsletter Issue 1.”Issue 6 – October 2016 Rampion Offshore Wind Farm(n.d.): n. pag. 1 Oct. 2016. Web. 9 Apr. 2017.
- Sturgeon Signs Climate Agreement with California.”BBC News. BBC, 03 Apr. 2017. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.
- Harrabin, Roger. “UN Report: Clean Power Is Up, Costs Are down.”BBC News. BBC, 06 Apr. 2017. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.
- Butler, James. “COUNTY NEWS: First Rampion Wind Farm Turbine Erected.”News. Chichester Observer, 13 Mar. 2017. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.