Sea bird halts London Array wind farm expansion

Plans to extend the London Array project have been abandoned

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A planned extension to a large Thames Estuary wind farm has been scrapped because of the time it would take to assess its impact on a species of bird.

The group behind London Array wind farm said it would take three years to look at the possible effect of the extra turbines on red-throated divers.

It had hoped to increase the number of turbines between Kent and Essex to 341.

The area is the winter home of about 6,500 red-throated divers - at least one third of the UK's population.

London Array said it had formally requested The Crown Estate to terminate the agreement for lease for the phase two area and had cancelled the grid capacity that was reserved at the National Grid substation in Graveney, Kent.

London Array wind turbines The London Array wind farm in the Thames Estuary and consists of 175 turbines

The wind farm, 10 miles north of Ramsgate, Kent, was given the green light in 2006 on condition that phase two, to add an extra 166 turbines, would only go ahead if the red-throated divers were protected.

'Absence of certainty'

The RSPB was concerned the population of the birds in the outer Thames estuary could be displaced by the extension.

Red-throated divers

  • Red-throated divers get their distinctive coloured throat in the summer
  • A bird can stay underwater for one and a half minutes
  • They only come ashore to breed
  • They breed mainly in the north west of Scotland and on the Orkney and Shetland islands
  • More than 6,500 birds, 38% of the UK population, winter in the area between Kent and Essex

London Array general manager Mike O'Hare said phase two of the project had always been subject to a condition that it would not compromise the estuary's status as a designated environmental Special Protection Area.

He added there was "no guarantee at the end of three years that we will be able to satisfy the authorities that any impact on the birds would be acceptable".

"In the absence of any certainty that phase two would be able to go ahead, our shareholders have decided to surrender The Crown Estate agreement for lease on the site, terminate the grid connection option, and concentrate on other development projects in their individual portfolios."

London Array is the largest wind farm of its kind in the world.

A spokesman for the Department for Energy and Climate Change said it was "perfectly normal" for developers to adjust their plans as they progress.

"Our reforms to the electricity market are providing certainty and long-term stability for investors, and as a result, we have a strong pipeline of projects both to 2020 and beyond," he said.

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