The production of electricity through the burning of fossil fuels produces large quantities of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. Such greenhouse gases have been attributed as contributors to global temperature rise the consequences of which include; increased erratic climatic events such as flooding and drought, and rising sea levels attributed to the melting of the polar ice caps, threatening coastal and small island communities. In 1997, worldwide governments (including the United Kingdom (UK)) agreed on the Kyoto Protocol. This protocol established legally binding targets, following ratification, for the reduction of greenhouse gases emitted by industrial nations. The UK Government has put in place an additional target, recently revised to a 14% cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2010 compared to 1990 levels. As one third of all carbon dioxide emitted in the UK comes from fossil fuelled power generation, and because of the rising demand for energy, both in the UK and worldwide, electricity from clean renewable sources such as wind power will therefore be essential for the UK to meet its targets on taking action on climate change (BWEA, 2005).
In 2003, the UK’s first commercial offshore wind farm (North Hoyle) was commissioned off the North Wales coast between Rhyl and Prestatyn by npower renewables. Thirty turbines generate up to 60MW of electricity and provide energy from a renewable source to meet the needs of approximately 40,000 homers per annum. It is expected that this renewable energy development will offset the release of approximately 160,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (the main greenhouse gas contributing to global warming and climate change) every year (npower renewables, 2005) bringing the UK closer to meeting the government's commitment to renewable energy targets.
Under the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) Round 2 offshore wind farm allocation process npower renewables are now seeking to build Gwynt y Môr Offshore Wind Farm within Liverpool Bay some 13-15km offshore from the North Wales coastline stretching from Prestatyn in the East to Penrhyn Bay in the West. The Gwynt y Môr project will generate a capacity of up to 750MWe of electricity and at this size would generate enough clean electricity each year to meet the demand of around 500,000 homes - equivalent to approximately all of the households in Anglesey, Gwynedd, Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Wirral, Sefton and West Lancashire (npower renewables, 2004).
The Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies Ltd (CMACS) has been commissioned by npower renewables to undertake the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the Gwynt y Môr project on the marine ecological environment, namely the water and sediment quality, areas of conservation interest and marine species including benthic invertebrates, plankton, fish and marine mammals. This has been undertaken through the review of available literature and, where necessary, undertaking site-specific surveys to provide baseline information on which the assessment of any impacts of the Gwynt y Môr Offshore Wind Farm project are then based. It should be noted that impacts of the project on terrestrial species (including birds) and terrestrial habitats have been assessed for within other reports (e.g. see ERM, 2005) and are not detailed within this report.
The impacts of the Gwynt y Môr Offshore Wind Farm project have been considered on the marine fauna and flora of Liverpool Bay and the wider eastern Irish Sea. For the purpose of this assessment the definition of the eastern Irish Sea follows the area from Luce Bay and the Rinns of Galloway in the North due South to the Northern Coastline of Angelsey and to include all waters located to the east (Proudman Oceanographic Institute, pers comm). Within this area further definition is given to Liverpool Bay, which is defined as the area from the Ribble Estuary (Lancashire) to the Great Ormes Head located at Llandudno (North Wales). However, this has been extended for the purpose of this assessment to include the mouth of the Conwy Estuary and the south east coastline of the Isle of Angelsey due to the position of Gwynt y Môr in relation to these areas.
The assessment for the impacts of Gwynt y Môr Offshore Wind Farm and the baseline information upon which these assessments have been made are presented within this following report. This information has then been used to produce the summary sections for the Environmental Statement (ES) (detailed in npower renewables, 2005). Any site-specific studies, which were undertaken as part of this assessment, have been appended to this report.