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‘Exciting’ time for region as Greater Gabbard passes milestone

PUBLISHED: 09:23 29 September 2012

The first turbine installation at the Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm in 2010.

The first turbine installation at the Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm in 2010.

Archant

The emergence of green energy as a key industry in Suffolk has reached a milestone after an offshore wind farm started to produce enough power for more than half a million homes.

The Greater Gabbard wind farm, off the coast of Sizewell, is now able to generate 500megawatts of power through its 140 turbines.

With two new wind farms in the pipeline on the Suffolk coast – the larger East Anglia One, which will have up to 325 turbines, and the proposed 504mw Galloper extension to Greater Gabbard – experts say the industry is set to boom in the coming years.

Judy Terry, cabinet member for economic development at Suffolk County Council, said the full operation of the wind farm pointed to “exciting” times ahead that could see the creation of 30,000 jobs, including 9,000 permanent positions, connected with renewable energy.

She added: “It’s going to be fantastic for this region. It’s very exciting and we are working hard to maximise the opportunities.”

With the potential to provide nearly a third of the total energy supplied by offshore wind to UK homes, Greater Gabbard has already generated vital investment in the region’s economy.

About £1.5million was spent refurbishing a derelict part of the old Lowestoft fish market to transform it into an operation and maintenance base, including stores, round-the-clock control room and offices for 80 people.

A further £500,000 has been sunk into building a new purpose-built hangar and helicopter landing pad.

Ms Terry said it was possible local people would be employed to construct turbines in the region, before being retrained to carry out maintenance. Scottish and Southern Energy plc, which is jointly in charge of the project with RWE npower renewables, will directly employ 25 full-time local staff for the operation and administration of Gabbard.

Meanwhile, Greater Gabbard Offshore Winds Ltd has taken on the first workboat vessels from two new operators – Great Yarmouth-based Iceni Marine and Tidal Transit, operating from the North Norfolk coast.

Another notable contract has been awarded to local product supply specialists 3Sun for statutory inspections, while CLS Offshore and Lowestoft’s Windcat Workboats have benefited from work on the Suffolk coast and the introduction to offshore markets beyond Greater Gabbard.

The UK now has more than 2.67 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity installed – enough to power more than 1.8m homes – with Greater Gabbard able to power 530,000 homes, based on annual household consumption of 3,300kwh.

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