Power to the People

CONSTRUCTION of the world's second largest offshore windfarm looks set to realise the dreams of a town intent on becoming Britain's centre of excellence for renewable energy.

CONSTRUCTION of the world's second largest offshore windfarm looks set to realise the dreams of a town intent on becoming Britain's centre of excellence for renewable energy.

Today, prime minister Gordon Brown will announce the successful companies and consortia who will develop nine offshore wind zones across the United Kingdom.

And The Journal can today reveal that Lowestoft is set to reap the rewards from a �15bn project that will be built about 15 miles off the north Suffolk and Norfolk coast.

For Lowestoft is in a prime position to deliver an economic bonanza as at least 1,000 turbines will be built in constructing the new Norfolk windfarm - and this will create about 1,000 jobs directly, with another 4,000 jobs in the supply chain.

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Speaking ahead of today's announcement, Waveney MP Bob Blizzard told The Journal that an area marked as the Norfolk zone - which is actually larger than the county from where it takes its name - will trigger 'major' opportunities for Lowestoft.

With a consortium involving Scottish Power and Vattenfall, a state-owned Swedish power group, believed to have secured the rights for this zone - one of nine put up for auction by the Crown Estates - Mr Blizzard said: 'The prime minister will announce the companies who have been successful in winning the licences for these nine areas, which are major offshore windfarm developments. This third round is the next phase of offshore wind electricity generation. For example the Greater Gabbard development off the Suffolk coast, which was announced in round two, is currently the world's largest offshore wind farm under construction - but with �100bn of total investment in round three this Norfolk zone will produce 5,000 megawatts of electricity, 10 times that of Greater Gabbard.

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'The Norfolk zone is right on Lowestoft's doorstep and from OrbisEnergy you will be able to look out and see the windfarm,' he added. 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 with the port, Gulliver, OrbisEnergy, the new PowerPark, the operational base for Greater Gabbard and the helipad.'

For Urban Regeneration Company 1st East today's announcement will be a 'really important' step forward.

Philip Watkins, chief executive of 1st East, said: 'We have previously sent marketing material to all the short-listed companies and as soon as the successful applicants for the Zone 5 (Norfolk) windfarm are confirmed we will be knocking on their door and continuing to make the case for choosing Lowestoft as their operations and maintenance base.

'Lowestoft is not only the closest port to the site but it also has extensive quay space and warehousing, 15 hectares of land at PowerPark dedicated to energy companies and high quality office accommodation at OrbisEnergy.'

1st East has been working 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.

'We can highlight a track record for fast planning consent and a genuine willingness at the highest levels to make things happen for the developers of the Greater Gabbard windfarm,' said Mr Watkins.

Wendy Mawer, Waveney's Portfolio Holder for Regeneration said: 'The East of England and in particular Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth have a long and successful association and over 40 years experience with the offshore energy sector. The offshore renewable industry is central to the future of our region both in terms of energy provision and the local economy. We have the skills, infrastructure and ability to embrace these sustainable opportunities, meeting the challenges and helping create a new low carbon economy, placing the region at the forefront of the renewable energy industry,' she added.

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