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Change the way offshore wind farms connect and save billions - report finds

PUBLISHED: 06:00 30 September 2020 | UPDATED: 13:28 30 September 2020

East Anglia is the most important area of the UK for wind energy but for growth in the future changes will have to be made to the way farms connect to the National Grid,a report has found. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

East Anglia is the most important area of the UK for wind energy but for growth in the future changes will have to be made to the way farms connect to the National Grid,a report has found. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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A fresh approach to connecting offshore wind farms could save consumers £6 billion and halve the amount of cables needing to be dug in coastal communities, the first report of its kind has found.

Some of the biggest offshore wind farms in the world are planned off the Norfolk coast. Picture: JULIAN CLAXON/CHPVSome of the biggest offshore wind farms in the world are planned off the Norfolk coast. Picture: JULIAN CLAXON/CHPV

National Grid, which is in charge of the country’s energy infrastructure, published a report today into if offshore wind farms should be integrated rather, than a new connection being created onshore for each one.

An integrated solution has long been proposed by campaigners in Norfolk who say that the construction of some of the world’s biggest wind farms off our coast will cause untold damage to our countryside and disruption.

Two huge cable trenches are planned, each 60 kilometres long, running from Happisburgh to Necton, and from Weybourne to Swardeston, to connect two wind farms.

The new approach explored in the National Grid report would come too late for the current planned wind farms and cable trenches, but they would end the need for cable trenches in the future and instead see the wind farms being connected to the grid on the coast.

The report found that this would save consumers 18pc or £6 billion.

The east of England would benefit more than any other region from the integrated solution, the report found, with savings of 30pc or £2.3 billion.

See also: Can these ideas stop the countryside being dug up for future wind farms?

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The amount of infrastructure built onshore would also be halved as there would be fewer cables and landing points onshore.

The report said: “The majority of the technology required for the integrated option is available now or will be by 2030.”

But they said underground cables with higher capacity needed to be developed.

Any changes would come too late for the current wind farms planned off the Norfolk coast, called Hornsea 3, Vanguard and Boreas.

Fintan Slye, director of National Grid ESO, said: “Our initial analysis already shows the potential for significant cost savings and a reduced need for physical infrastructure but it’s crucially important we hear from a variety of stakeholders in this consultation, including coastal communities, developers and transmission owners. These views will help shape recommendations and proposals as the project moves forward.”

Vattenfall UK Country Manager Danielle Lane said: “Balancing decarbonisation, consumer costs, and local community concerns as we move towards net zero is no easy task, and projects already under development need to remain on track if we’re to meet the target of 40GW of offshore generation by 2030.”

But she added: “The grid must be able to cope in an era of rapidly increasing volumes of renewable power, intermittent generation, flexible electricity markets, under-sea interconnectors, battery storage, and households both taking electricity from and supplying it back to the grid.

“But this is about more than supplying power to people’s homes - the grid is also the lifeline which will enable industries right across the economy to move away from fossil-fuels and rely on clean electricity instead.”

•The consultation runs until the end of October and can be responded to by emailing: box.OffshoreCoord@nationalgridESO.com


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