Floating turbine technology is the next step in the development of offshore wind. It enables deployment in deeper water than fixed offshore windfarms and for turbines to be located further from shore. The UK Government has an ambition to deliver 5GW of floating offshore wind by 2030.
White Cross is a small pre-commercial scale test and demonstration project of floating offshore wind turbines. The aim is to test this new technology in the Celtic Sea to support future development of offshore wind in the region and support local supply chain development. White Cross will support the delivery of the ambition for 5GW of floating offshore wind.
White Cross is not part of the Celtic Sea offshore leasing round. The rights for the White Cross development were secured from The Crown Estate in July 2021 as a test and demonstration site. Test and demonstration sites will support future development and commercialisation of innovative technologies in the region.
It has been decided that the White Cross project will use the remaining capacity and the existing East Yelland substation to connect to the grid and transmit energy. This has determined the area of search for the landfall locations.
The landfall location and potential cable routes have been identified through an extensive assessment process that takes into consideration comments received through the consultation process and balances environmental, technical and commercial issues. The process seeks to avoid several constraints including environmentally sensitive and nature conservation areas, historic designations, flood zones and other infrastructure whilst minimising the route length. Land conditions and suitability for cable burial have also been considered.
Based on discussions with, and feedback from, local stakeholders and Natural England with regards to draft proposed cable routes we are now in the process of further refinement and the exploration of other potential cable routes.
Why is a cable route up the Taw Torridge Estuary not being utilised to connect the windfarm to East Yelland?
As part of the extensive cable route assessment process, a route up the Taw Torridge Estuary was considered. Due to several constraints, this route was deemed unsuitable and was discounted. Some of the reasons for this potential route being discounted include:
- The estuary itself is protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Due to the tidal range of the estuary and the dynamic nature of the geomorphology, to ensure that the cable remains buried it would need to be installed at a depth of several meters which would cause significant environmental impacts to the seabed
- Utilising a trenchless drilling technique to install the cable from the offshore area to the substation would be technically unfeasible due to the distance and the conditions
Laying the cable on the estuary bed (even if cable protection were utilised) would result in significant navigational health and safety issues and therefore is not a viable option
Is the project coordinating with other developers in the Celtic Sea to minimise the number of cables coming to shore?
Developers of the approved test and demonstration sites are communicating about their projects to realise synergies for construction where practicable.
Due to the limited available capacity into East Yelland substation, which only has capacity for the 100MW White Cross project, coordinated cable systems are not an appropriate solution for this project.
The BEIS led Offshore Transmission Network Review and associated Holistic Network Design process are understood to include the Celtic Sea floating offshore wind opportunities that will open to tenders in Spring/Summer 2023.
Both onshore and offshore, the cable will be trenched and buried, to a depth between 0.5 and 3 meters, as far as possible.
Where this is not possible offshore due to the seabed type or the presence of other infrastructure that needs to be crossed the cable will be laid on the surface of the seabed and cable protection materials will be laid on top. Onshore where trenching and burying the cable is not possible due to the sensitivity of the habitat or presence of infrastructure, such as roads, alternative methods including Hydraulic Directional Drilling will be used to avoid damage to these features.
We are in the process of gathering data on fishing activity through data available from the MMO, Cefas, the Devon and Severn and Cornwall IFCAs and through discussions with relevant fisheries organisation (NFFO, CFPO etc.). As part of this data collection, we are speaking with fishermen to identify key fishing grounds.
Commercial fisheries are scoped into the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Project and potential impacts will be fully considered and suitable mitigation measures developed, as appropriate. The scope of the impact assessment for fisheries will investigate whether the project has the potential to affect fishing activity and if so how this activity will be affected. We will be looking at impacts such as disruption and displacement of fishing activity, increased risk of snagging, effects on target species and will also look at effects on navigation of fishing vessels.
During any pre-construction/installation survey works, early dialogue with the local fishermen is key to insuring everyone is aware of planned activities, also when and where these are taking place. Should gear relocation be required to access a busy fishing area, this will be done through the correct channels and in line with The Fishing Liaison with Offshore Wind and Wet Renewables Group Best Practice Guidance.
Unfortunately for safety reasons it is unlikely to be possible to fish within the wind turbine mooring footprint area. The turbines that will be installed at White Cross will be floating turbines likely to be anchored to the seabed with catenary moorings. The moorings will spread out approximately 600m from each turbine [max of 1200m diameter] which will present a snagging risk to fishing gear.
However, there will only be between 6 and 8 turbines in the White Cross development which only occupy approximately 20% of the White Cross site area. Information will be made available to ensure that the area of the windfarm is charted and stakeholders are aware of the location of the mooring lines. It should still be possible to fish in the remaining array area that is not occupied by turbines and moorings.
What consideration has been given to a greater impact of cable Electromagnetic Fields given that dynamic cables from floating turbine will be in the water column between the turbine and the seabed?
We are looking into studies and research on EMF in exposed cables in the water column to support the assessment of this on fish and other marine ecological species, particularly with the awareness that cables will not be buried but exposed between the seabed and the turbine. However we do note that cables are already ‘shielded’ and thus minimise the levels of EMF, though obviously this is potentially less effective than if those cable are buried as well.
In accordance with the Government’s Electro-Magnetic Field (EMF) public exposure guidance the risk of impacts from electro-magnetic fields from this project is deemed extremely low. This is because of inherent cable design which includes a protective layer over the cable insulation to contain the electric fields and the depth that these cables will be buried to.
Further information on this topic will be included in the Human Health Impact Assessment within the Environmental Statement.
What steps have been taken to protect the local marine environment and the particularly sensitive environment of Lundy Island?
The White Cross site selection has been undertaken to avoid key commercial fisheries and protected species and habitats, including sites designated for nature conservation, as far as possible. Site-specific surveys are being undertaken and previous survey data has been reviewed to support site selection.
At its closest point, Lundy Island is approximately 44km from the White Cross offshore windfarm. At this distance, the offshore windfarm is likely to be intermittently and infrequently visible during the majority of prevailing visibility conditions.
Detailed assessments will be undertaken to consider the potential impacts on the seascape, landscape, and visual amenity of Lundy Island, and its cultural heritage. The assessment of seascape, landscape, and visual amenity (including views) will be informed through fieldwork survey, visibility analysis, and the preparation of baseline photography and visualisations from a sensitive viewpoint located on the island.
Environmental reports will inform us of the likely impacts to a variety of receptors of the project. Where impacts are identified these will be avoided, minimised or mitigated as far as practicable.
What will be the impact of the windfarm on the quality of the surfing on the local North Devon coast especially within the North Devon World Surfing Reserve?
The EIA will undertake detailed wave modelling, to determine the degree to which the array itself could potentially impact upon surfing wave quality at Saunton Sands and other locations. Changes to wave height, wave speed, swell period, swell direction and wind speeds could all influence wave quality at the coast.
Due to the limited number of floating turbine units (between 6 and 8) is likely that the development will have a very small operational impact on the wave climate in a local area (less than 1 km) around the them. As the wind farm array is located 52.5km offshore (at its closest point) from the coast, there will be no impact on waves at the coast due to its location during operation. There will also be no impact on waves during construction or decommissioning. Similar conclusions can be drawn for the foundations that will support the single offshore platform.
Further evidence for the absence of an impact on waves at the coast has been demonstrated recently in a wave modelling exercise carried out for two wind farms off the coast of East Anglia; Dudgeon and Sheringham Shoal. The results demonstrate that an offshore wind farm that is significantly bigger than and closer to the coast than White Cross has no impact on waves at the coast. Hence, for White Cross, waves would only be changed local to each turbine foundation, and would dissipate within a very short distance (less than a kilometre) towards the coast, before returning to their ambient condition at the coast.
It is expected that an open cut trench, horizontal directional drilling (HDD) or a combination of the two will be used to connect the offshore export cable to shore. In these situations, there will be no impact on the wave environment as the seabed bathymetry will be returned to its natural condition or maintained by natural processes.
If the cable cannot be buried due to the nature of the seabed, then it would be surface-laid and covered by rock placement and/or mattresses up to 1m high above seabed and up to 7m wide. Where the export cable is surface-laid there is the potential for interaction with waves where the rock or mattresses protect the cable and stand proud of the seabed. Until further data is available, a maximum value of 10% unburied cable length is assumed. This is likely to be in short sections and in relatively deep water, further from shore where the harder substrate is found. This means that they will not have a measurable effect on the baseline wave regime, other than local to each section of protection. This local change will be negligible compared to the baseline high energy environment in this area, and the coastal wave regime would have negligible sensitivity to such local effects.
What consideration has been given to any increase in traffic in the local area associated with the project and any impacts?
The Applicant has undertaken a comprehensive data collection exercise to understand the baseline characteristics within the study area, this includes surveys of traffic flows, capturing details of seasonal fluctuations in traffic and details of existing collisions (accidents) that have occurred. The Applicant has forecast the likely levels of temporary construction traffic demand that will be generated, and an assessment of potential impacts on the baseline characteristics will be presented within a Transport Assessment (TA) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), that will accompany the application. The TA and EIA will include a detailed assessment of the effects of the projects construction traffic upon the impacts of driver delay (highway capacity), highway safety, severance and amenity.
The application will be supported by an outline Construction Traffic Management Plan (oCTMP) that will include details of strategies for managing construction traffic movements, such as, measures to manage traffic movements along narrow country roads, controlling the routeing and timing of deliveries, and communications strategies to allow the public and stakeholders to raise any issues. Subject to approval of the application, the oCTMP will be developed post consent with input from the appointed contractor and in consultation with Devon County Council.
How will the unique and important onshore environment be protected from harm during the development?
A full environmental impact assessment has been undertaken as part of the development process.
All potential impacts associated with the cable route will be temporary, lasting during the construction period only. The substation building and associated visual impacts will be present throughout the lifetime of the project. These will be appropriately mitigated overtime as the landscaping and planting mature to minimise potential impacts.
The preferred substation location has been selected due to its proximity to the existing substation and the commercial nature of the surrounding buildings. The substation design will follow the industry standard design code which sets out how the finished building should look. This includes details on the siting, materials, colour and finish and will be delivered in a style appropriate to the surroundings. To minimise any visual impacts of the building, planting will be utilised around the substation as screening. Following construction, the cable route and associated access routes will be reinstated to the condition they were found in.
The White Cross project will be providing 10% Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG). BNG is a way to contribute to the recovery of nature while developing land. It is making sure the habitat for wildlife is in a better state than it was before development. White Cross will work in collaboration with the North Devon UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and their Natural Capital Marketplace to ensure that the environmental measures incorporated by the project are compatible with the local area and priorities.
Will an onshore substation be required and how will you mitigate the impacts of this on the landscape?
An additional onshore substation will be required to enable the efficient transfer of electricity to the grid from the project and will be located close to the existing East Yelland Substation. The exact size and layout of the substation has not yet been finalised and will be dependent on other project decisions such as if an offshore substation is required.
To minimise any potential impacts of the new substation, the industry standard design code will be followed which sets out how the finished building should look. This includes details on the siting, materials, colour and finish and will be delivered in a style appropriate to the surroundings. To minimise any visual impacts of the building, planting will be utilised around the substation as screening.
The project has submitted a Scoping Report to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) that provides an overview of the White Cross project and is a formal mechanism to canvass stakeholder feedback/opinion. The scoping report is in the public domain and can be downloaded from our website here.
In addition, the project has undertaken extensive stakeholder engagement from the outset, engaging a wide and diverse group of stakeholders including but not limited to regulators and statutory consultees, the local council and planning authorities, wildlife and conservation organisations, fishers and local landowners, sea users and councillors. The project team will continue to engage with local stakeholder throughout the development process.
Formal consultation is undertaken by the Marine Management Organisation for the offshore consent application and the North Devon Council Local Planning Authority for the onshore planning application. Formal consultation for the offshore application runs for 42 days from the 15th September 2023.
The planning application for the onshore elements of the project has been submitted to North Devon Council Local Planning Authority under application number 77576. To view the application on the planning portal, click here.
The offshore application covers the marine licences and Electricity Act Section 36 requirements. It has been submitted to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) as the offshore regulator.
To view and comment on the offshore consent application on the marine licence applications public register, please click here.
For more information via our website, visit the Planning and Consent section.