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Lowestoft's 'greatest opportunity'

PUBLISHED: 09:46 15 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:57 06 July 2010

IT has been hailed as the "greatest opportunity" for Lowestoft in some 50 years.

The development of the world's second largest offshore wind farm right on Lowestoft's "doorstep" looks set to trigger a massive jobs and economic bonanza to the town.

IT has been hailed as the “greatest opportunity” for Lowestoft in some 50 years.

The development of the world's second largest offshore wind farm right on Lowestoft's “doorstep” looks set to trigger a massive jobs and economic bonanza to the town.

Coming just days after the dawning of a new year, a wind of change is set to herald major opportunities in the next decade. The government's announcement last Friday - as revealed in last week's Journal - that a £15bn offshore wind farm is to be built 14km from the shore, off the north Suffolk and Norfolk coast, sparked local celebrations.

And today, those who have been working tirelessly in recent months to turn the dreams of a town aiming to become the renewables energy capital of the UK into a reality, are set for further talks with the new licensees.

ScottishPower Renewables and Vattenfall Vindkraft - a state-owned Swedish power group - have been awarded the rights to develop a major offshore wind farm in Zone 5, which has been unveiled as the East Anglia Array. The new wind farm, which will start construction in the next five years, is likely to see the creation of at least 1,000 turbines with the potential to provide enough clean green energy to power the equivalent of over five million homes every year.

With the potential to generate approximately 7.2GW of renewable energy, the £15bn East Anglia Array wind farm site covers 603,680-hectares - and is larger than the county of Norfolk, from where it took its name.

With last week's announcement from prime minister Gordon Brown and The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Miliband, Lowestoft has moved a step closer to becoming the operational and maintenance base for the project.

The new licensees have said they would set up its base in East Anglia and that Lowestoft is an “attractive option.” A buoyant Philip Watkins, chief executive of urban regeneration company 1st East, said: “This is good news for the town and the sub-region.“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. The town's PowerPark is a regeneration project aimed at creating a cluster of energy businesses, and it has already attracted Greater Gabbard Wind Farms Ltd. ScottishPower Renewables and Vattenfall came to see what we had to offer and I they liked what they saw. They have made it clear that Lowestoft is attractive to them,” he added.

ScottishPower Renewables and Vattenfall have already made specific enquiries about supply chain businesses in Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth, and also the skills development and education links with Lowestoft College, University Campus Suffolk and the University of East Anglia.

Equally delighted with the announcement, Waveney MP Bob Blizzard this week urged local firms to gear up for the huge business opportunity presented by new wind farm announcement.

“Now we know that Scottish Power and Vattenfall will invest in and develop the new wind farm, it's time for local businesses to try and become part of the supply chain,” Mr Blizzard said. “A special event will take place on March 4 at Orbis Energy at which Crown Estate Chief Executive, Rob Hastings will spell out the opportunities. Lowestoft's strength will be in operation and maintenance of the 1,000 turbines,” he added. “This is a huge amount of work lasting for 25 years or more and I do hope that local companies will attend and take advantage of our ideal location as this work will be right on our doorstep.”

With 1st East having worked with Associated British Ports, Suffolk County Council, Waveney District Council, Renewables East, the East of England Energy Group, NWES and the East of England Development Agency to encourage developers to consider Lowestoft, the local facilities, expertise and desire of the partnership group to collectively attract the developers to town has proved crucial.

“This is our greatest opportunity since the 1960s when north sea gas was discovered and I've always said Lowestoft could be the offshore windfarm capital of the this country - and with this announcement that dream is a step nearer to becoming reality,” Mr Blizzard said.

Echoing these sentiments, Stephen Baker, chief executive of Waveney District Council told The Journal: “The Crown Estate announcement detailing who has been awarded the right to develop wind farms off the UK coast, has brought with it a real opportunity for Lowestoft and the sub-region.

“Waveney District Council is already engaging with both ScottishPower Renewables and Vattenfall, with more dialogue in the coming weeks. Lowestoft is ideally placed to provide just what these companies need and together with 1st East and other partners, we will be doing all we can to make them feel welcome in this part of East Anglia.

“We are already a focal point for renewables with a growing reputation on delivery, enterprise and skills,” he added. “This is a real opportunity for our communities, for our businesses and our partners and one I'm confident we can maximise for the benefit of all.”

The announcement was also welcomed by Associated British Ports' (ABP), and Nick Ridehalgh, Port Director, 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.”

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