WIND turbines could be seen from the New Forest coastline if plans for a giant £3 billion offshore wind farm are given the go-ahead.

Dutch-based energy firm Eneco today launches a public consultation on its proposals to build up to 300 wind turbines nine miles from Barton on Sea, 14 miles from Lymington and 8.4 miles west from The Needles on the Isle of Wight.

If granted planning consent, the 76 square mile wind farm could generate enough electricity to power between 615,000 and 820,000 homes – equivalent to the population of Hampshire.

Three options for mixes of varying sized turbines, from 3.7 to 9MW, are proposed for the wind farm, known as Navitus Bay. The tallest would rise up to 160m out of the sea.

And the Daily Echo can reveal Southampton is being considered, along with other south coast and French havens, to become a “construction port” for the assembly of the turbines, bringing up to 100 jobs.

A longer-term maintenance and operations presence could see dozens more roles created.

A series of public information days has already been held.

Eneco is now launching a series of eight public exhibitions as part of its bid for planning consent, beginning today in Swanage, and moving to New Milton next Wednesday and Lymington next Friday.

Navitus Bay project director Chris Sherrington said: “We are seeking feedback on the proposals from the public which will help us inform the final design of Navitus Bay.

“The statutory consultation period lasts for the next 18 months, so even if people are unable to attend the exhibitions there will still be plenty of time to provide feedback.”

The plans have already led to some objections from environmental groups and concerns from the Hamble-based Royal Yachting Association about its location and its impact on leisure sailing.

Eneco says recreational boating through the wind farms will be permitted as they will be spaced at least 750m apart.

An initial survey of south coast residents for Eneco revealed 78 per cent of respondents said they would be happy to live in sight of the huge turbines.

Eneco was awarded the rights to seek development consent for 279 square miles of sea bed to the west of the Isle of Wight by the Crown Estate in 2010. It is one of nine zones within UK waters ministers hope will together deliver 32GW – a quarter of the UK’s electricity needs.

A planning application to the national Infrastructure Planning Commission is expected to be submitted next year for consent in 2015.

The wind farm could be operational by 2020.