British offshore wind farms are attracting tourists

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For years Paul Dyer relied on diving and fishing to draw tourists away from the bars and ice cream parlors that line Brighton’s seafront. Then came Rampion, 400MW offshore wind farm now operated by RWE, a utility company. Its construction limited opportunities for diving trips. So Mr Dyer bought the domain name “www.rampionwindfarm.co.uk” and started offering boat trips for tourists to see the wind farm up close. Four years later business is booming. “It’s just getting busier and busier,” he says.

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Rampion was against it because locals said it would destroy the view of the English Channel from the South Downs National Park, part of which overlooks Brighton. But where some see ugliness, others see beauty. At least five companies now offer boat trips. “There’s plenty to go around,” said Steve Johnson, another tour operator.

Visitors range from environmentalists to corporate people. Oil company workers have been organizing trips. “They all have sectors that work in renewable energy,” said one sailor. “But they’ve never seen a wind farm.” Others come from further afield. “We get a lot of engineering types,” boasts another. “So a lot of Chinese.” With the air of a taxi driver proud that a TV star in the back of their cabin, one sailor brags that he recently had an ambassador from East Asia on his boat, who wants to build offshore wind farms back home. Experienced sailors have talked about wind farm technology. “I just sit there and give them 45 minutes of spiel,” said one of them.

Mr Dyer says his visits have helped address the concerns of local people who campaigned against the construction of the wind farm. But trouble arises again. RWE plans a major expansion of Rampion, adding 90 much higher turbines to the existing 116. Campaigners argue that this would harm wildlife and habitats. “Tourists love a boat trip,” said Zoe Visram of the Middleton-On-Sea Coastal Alliance. “However, that does not mean that a large wind farm will be built close to the shore.” Many captains may disagree.

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