Wind of change set for Lowestoft

PUBLISHED: 08:45 17 April 2009 | UPDATED: 08:58 06 July 2010

A WIND of change is set to breathe a “new lease of life” into Lowestoft.

The town's port is in a prime position to deliver a jobs bonanza as work soon begins on the world's largest offshore wind farm.

A WIND of change is set to breathe a “new lease of life” into Lowestoft.

The town's port is in a prime position to deliver a jobs bonanza as work soon begins on the world's largest offshore wind farm.

Coming in the midst of the gloomy national downturn, the offshore renewable energy industry is set to provide a welcome boost to the local economy with the creation of 150 new jobs in Lowestoft.

A £1.5m project to turn the town's harbour into the operational base for the £1.3bn Greater Gabbard wind farm, which will be located in the North sea off the Suffolk coast and in the outer Thames Estuary, is due to start in the summer.

But refurbishment work to transform the town's former fish market has already started as wind farm developers Airtricity renovate the new operations and maintenance base for the project.

And this week, port owner Associated British Ports, Airtricity and Waveney MP Bob Blizzard welcomed the confirmation that Lowestoft will be the new base for the 140-turbine Greater Gabbard wind farm.

Offshore construction work is due to start in the summer on the 500MW wind farm and in the meantime Lowestoft's outer harbour is being used to house the necessary operational support facilities.

With ABP carrying out investment in the construction of facilities next to the Waveney Dock, Airtricity will eventually utilise part of the old fish market complex for its control room, offices and stores when the wind farm becomes operational.

And as well as this new dockside headquarters, the port will also be home to a helicopter and a fleet of high-speed offshore catamarans, which will be able to travel from Waveney Dock to the wind farm in about an hour.

Stephen Rose, Airtricity's offshore wind operations manager, said: “The building is leased from Associated British Ports and will house up to 20 employees and up to 50 contractors from Siemens Wind Power who have a five-year service and warranty agreement to maintain the 140 wind turbines making up the Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm. In addition to the base complex, five purpose-built vessels and a helicopter will operate from the site to help service the wind farm. Employees are currently being recruited locally, and we anticipate they will take up residence in the new building from July this year.”

Alastair MacFarlane, ABP port manager for East Anglia, said the jobs boost and improvements to the outer harbour and surrounding area is great news.

“Lowestoft has a long-established reputation as a centre for the offshore energy industry and the port's central role in the operation of the Greater Gabbard wind farm will only act to enhance this reputation,” he said.

The wind farm is being developed in a joint venture between Airtricity, the renewable energy development division of Scottish and Southern Energy plc (SSE) and npower renewables. The project will produce electricity sufficient to power more than 415,000 homes. The wind farm is scheduled to produce its first power later this year, with final completion in early 2011.

Waveney MP Bob Blizzard said: “This is great news for Lowestoft, and shows the difference green energy can make to our local economy. This is another step nearer to Lowestoft becoming the wind energy capital of Britain - we are perfectly placed to make the most of this new industry.

“The government has selected the area off our coastline for the next round of expansion of offshore wind power, too, so we can look forward to seeing yet more jobs in the future. Combined with the research jobs from organisations such as CEFAS and the Orbis centre, this will give a new lease of life to Lowestoft and make us a centre of excellence for high-tech marine industries,” he added.

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