A rich sea of opportunity
Hayley MaceThe east coast is set for a jobs and construction bonanza after the government yesterday backed plans for a �15bn windfarm to be built off the Norfolk and Suffolk coast.Hayley Mace
The east coast is set for a jobs and construction bonanza after the government yesterday backed plans for a �15bn windfarm to be built off the Norfolk and Suffolk coast.
The Crown Estate granted licences for development at nine sites around the UK and one of the largest of the new third generation zones will be a windfarm with at least 1,000 turbines about 15 miles offshore between Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.
The area known as the East Anglia Array, which will cover an area bigger than the whole county of Norfolk, is estimated to have the potential to deliver the equivalent power of more than five million homes every year.
As well as producing green power, the development has been hailed as an important opportunity for local companies as the construction and maintenance of the wind farm could create anything up to 4,000 jobs in the area, with Lowestoft looking likely to be chosen as the project's operations base.
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A consortium involving ScottishPower Renewables and Vattenfall, a state-owned Swedish power group, has secured the rights to the Norfolk zone, which will be home to the second largest of the round three wind farms and which could potentially generate five times as much power as Sizewell B power station.
Five of the newly-announced round three wind farms are going to be built in the North Sea, stretching from the Moray Firth off the coast of north Scotland down to the coast off East Anglia, with a total of about 6,000 turbines.
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Philip Watkins, chief executive of 1st East, the urban regeneration company for Yarmouth and Lowestoft, said the project would bring massive employment benefits to both Yarmouth and Lowestoft.
He said: 'We've been working for months with local authorities and other partners to encourage energy companies bidding for the licence to set up their operations and maintenance base in Lowestoft.
'ScottishPower Renewables and Vettenfall came to see what we had to offer and they liked what they saw. They have made it clear that Lowestoft is attractive to them.'
A spokesman for ScottishPower Renewables and Vettenfall said: 'The partners are aiming to work with local businesses and employ local workers where possible and are engaging with regional development agencies to discuss the best ways to take this forward.'
John Best, chief executive of the East of England Energy Group, said the move from the planning to the development phase represented an opportunity for the whole region to cash in on the offshore energy sector.
He said: 'We are now moving into industrial-scale delivery. This means the opportunities for jobs will be enhanced and directed towards the cost-effective delivery of this vital part of a lower carbon future.'
Work is already under way in Lowestoft to make the port the base for the 140-turbine Greater Gabbard windfarm, which is currently being built off the Suffolk coast near Sizewell, and Waveney MP Bob Blizzard said that yesterday's announcement supported the town's bid to become the UK's renewables energy capital.
He said: 'The Norfolk zone is right on Lowestoft's doorstep. The preparatory work really starts now, but there is no doubt that Lowestoft is the ideal location as we already have the credentials and organisations here.'
Associated British Ports (ABP) also welcomed the news. Nick Ridehalgh, port director of short sea ports, said: 'Lowestoft is in a fantastic position to serve some of the biggest developments in the North Sea and ABP is working to make sure the big names base themselves here.'
Before being built, the windfarm will be subject to planning consent from the government. ScottishPower Renewables said it was hoping to submit the first planning application in 2012 and, if approved, it is anticipated that construction would begin in 2015 and be carried out in phases.
The East Anglia Array windfarm will be made up of at least 1,000 turbines.
The windfarm will have the potential capacity to generate 7.2 gigawatts (7.2 billion Watts) of energy, which is enough to power five million homes annually.
The windfarm will cover more than 600,000 hectares (nearly 1.5m acres) of sea bed.
The windfarm is expected to create about 4,000 jobs on the east coast.
The nine round three windfarms which were backed yesterday will power 19m homes between them around the UK.
The biggest round three windfarm will be at Dogger Bank in the North Sea, which has the capacity to generate about nine gigawatts of power.
It is estimated that the UK's offshore wind industry could be worth �75bn and support up to 70,000 jobs by 2020.