Hundreds more wind turbines could be coming to Norfolk and Suffolk coast

By | December 14, 2018

The Sheringham Shoal Offshore Wind Farm, off the north Norfolk coast. Picture: Ian Burt

Hundreds more wind turbines could be built off the Norfolk and Suffolk coast, potentially bringing thousands of skilled jobs to the region.

Simon Gray, chief executive Eeegr. Picture: Denise Bradley

The Crown Estate, which manages the seabed around Britain, included East Anglia as one of five areas it wants to lease to offshore wind farms for the next generation of farms.

Three of the biggest wind farms in the world are already planned off the Norfolk coast and these developments would come on top of that.

It has been predicted that more than 50% of the country’s wind farms will be built off the Norfolk and Suffolk coast in years to come.

The news has been welcomed for the major economic benefits it could bring.

But concerns have been raised about the impact associated onshore works could have on the region’s treasured countryside and it has been warned development “should not come at any cost.”

The latest plans put forward by The Crown Estate includes a stretch of coast in East Suffolk and East Norfolk, but not North Norfolk.

The North Norfolk coastline is still “under further consideration” for future development, the Crown Estate said.

Chris Starkie, chief executive of business group New Anglia LEP. Picture: James Bass

Chris Starkie, chief executive of business group New Anglia LEP, says: “We were pleased to see the Crown Estate identify the waters off Norfolk and Suffolk as potential locations for a fourth round of offshore wind farms.

“This reinforces the East’s position as an international centre for the offshore wind industry.

“These wind farms would bring thousands of new well paid jobs in construction, manufacturing and operations.

“It also brings the opportunity to bring electricity to our rural communities.

Wells Harbour master Robert Smith. Picture: Ian Burt

“We do accept however that more work is required to examine the onshore infrastructure needed to support the offshore wind farms so residents and communities can benefit from this investment.”

The Crown Estate said the five regions included had been selected because they are technically feasible, feature large areas of available seabed and face fewer constraints.

Simon Gray, chief executive of the East of England Energy Group, says: “Over 50% of the country’s wind farms will be built off the Norfolk and Suffolk coast. It’s partly down to the shallow water and our relative proximity to the main population areas in London, the South East and the Midlands.

“It’s a great thing for our region as it means more jobs for residents.

Graham Plant, leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council. Picture: Neil Perry

“The life capacity of these wind farms is between 25 and 40 years, so that’s two generations of workers. It’s great news for the economy and investment in the region. It’s great for post-industrial towns like Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, as these will be well-paid, highly skilled jobs.”

Robert Smith, from the Wells Harbour Commissioners, says: “Depending on where they are, it could be a good thing for Norfolk. From my experience in Wells, in North Norfolk, it has brought lots of opportunities, created jobs, and brought financial investment.

“I’m very pro offshore wind farms as they can bring economic benefits to the area, but it also depends on how it affects other users as well.”

Beverley Wigg, from N2RS, which protests against relay stations for offshore wind farms being built in the countryside, urged the Crown Estate to look at the cumulative impact of so many farms in one area.

“It is a worry that new projects will be decided piecemeal with no long term strategy,” she says. “What is this going to mean for Norfolk and its reputation as a tourist destination? Which sub-stations are going to support the future projects?”

Developers behind five new wind farms already planned off the Norfolk and Suffolk shore say they will generate power for millions of homes and create jobs. But have proved controversial with cable corridors needing to be dug across the countryside to connect them to the National Grid.

New substations will also be needed in the countryside.

Andrew Stringer, leader of the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group at Suffolk County Council, said renewable energy was to be welcomed “but not at any cost”.

Graham Plant, leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, says: “It’s going to be happening over the next 20 years. It’s not just about wind farms, there are cabling jobs, trunk routes to be put on. There’s a whole round of discussions going on over what infrastructure is needed.

“And with Brexit coming up we need to be aware of competition from our European neighbours now.

“We have got an ambitious opportunity to plug into all of this, and be ready for opportunities as they emerge. The wind farms present a great opportunity for the area, and something we have been waiting on.”

Securing a skilled workforce

Councils across the region have been working to try and equip workers with the required skills in the offshore energy industry.

But it’s proving quite a challenge, especially at Egmere business zone, between Fakenham and Wells, where controversy led to a change in leadership at North Norfolk District Council (NNDC).

Through the use of a Local Development Order, companies working in the offshore energy industry can move into the Egmere business zone without having to apply for planning permission.

But a vote of no confidence motion in the administration at NNDC was tabled after Cabinet members decided not to commission an independent review into whether the proposals were financially viable.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb also criticised the Egmere business zone plans, arguing the project was creating a limited number of jobs for the council’s £2.2m investment.

And after the motion was passed, new NNDC leader Sarah Butikofer said there will now be an independent review into the plans.

World’s biggest wind farms

Three of the biggest wind farms in the world are already planned off the Norfolk coast.

The companies by beind them say they will provide enough energy to power more than four million homes – the equivalent of five Sizewell nuclear power stations.

The work will affect more than 200 landowners and the impact on communities, businesses and the environment will be huge.

Vattenfall wants to build two wind farms, Vanguard and Boreas, 50km east of the coast at Happisburgh,

One wind farm, Hornsea Three, will be built 120km north of the Norfolk coast by Danish energy firm Orsted.

Cables from Hornsea Three would come ashore at Weybourne, while cables from Vattenfall’s two wind farms would reach Norfolk at Happisburgh.

Both would then need trenches up to 60 kilometres long to be dug across the Norfolk countryside to connect them to the National Grid. Norfolk’s business leaders said the wind farms would bring huge benefits to the region.

Story by Tom Bristow for the Eastern Daily Press.