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Region's firms could find opportunities with wind farm developer's novel technology

DONG Energy''s Horns Rev offshore windfarm. Pic: DONG Energy A/S.

DONG Energy''s Horns Rev offshore windfarm. Pic: DONG Energy A/S.

DONG Energy

East Anglian firms could capitalise on the deployment of a novel technology set to be used with two of the world's largest proposed offshore wind farms.

Swedish energy firm Vattenfall has made the “pioneering” decision to use high voltage direct current (HVDC) to transmit energy ashore from its Norfolk Vanguard and Boreas wind farms, proposed to be built 50km off the county’s east coast.

The technology has not been used in the UK before and, with a certain amount of work on the projects required to go to British companies, it could present an opportunity for regional firms which can adapt their skills to it.

Simon Gray, chief executive of the East of England Energy Group, said all the region’s major offshore wind farms to date had used its rival, alternative current (HVAC).

“Not all the technologies (for HVDC) are present in the UK, but here there is some knowledge and expertise in the area,” he said.

“There are UK contract targets they [Vattenfall] have, so they will be looking to do a lot of business in the UK and use local companies as much as possible.”

Ruari Lean, Vattenfall’s project manager for the scheme, said the firm wanted to work with supply chain companies to “drive down the cost” of HVDC to make it cost-competitive with HVAC.

As well as greater retention of energy down the cables, using HVDC means relay stations will not be needed for the Vattenfall scheme and 75% fewer cables will be required – eight compared to the 36 needed for HVAC.

Mr Lean said: “Vattenfall has made a real commitment to work with the supply chain of 
HVDC to make sure it is cost-effective and to give benefits to further offshore projects in the future.

“We need to be clear on our requirements and they need to be able to respond with their products. Because this is an evolving technology there are limitations for its availability in the UK, but we want to be part of that change.”

He added that, if component manufacture for HVDC began in the region, more jobs could be created through manufacturers’ own supply chains.

A new standard for offshore wind?

Some feel that Vattenfall’s decision to use HVDC for energy transmission could set a new bar for offshore wind farm developers.

Orsted, formerly Dong Energy, is currently consulting on plans for its Hornsea Project Three wind farm off the north Norfolk coast. The Danish firm says it is still considering both transmission options.

Jane Kenny, associate director at property agency Savills, is working with about 40 landowners affected by the Vattenfall and Orsted projects.

“From a tactical point of view, hopefully it will make Orsted re-think what they are doing, but they seem to be approaching this in a completely different way to Vattenfall,” she said.

A spokesman for the No 2 Relay Stations campaign group said they hoped Vattenfall’s decision would “encourage other energy companies, such as Orsted, to follow its pioneering lead”.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said Vattenfall had made a “brave” decision in opting for HVDC.

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