£3m investment unlocks green future

A £3m investment last night secured the go-ahead for major project to establish the east coast as a key centre for the emerging offshore wind energy business.

A £3m investment last night secured the go-ahead for a major project to establish the east coast as a key centre for the emerging offshore wind energy business.

Work is expected to start within three months on the landmark Orbis - Offshore Renewable Business Centre - project in Lowestoft.

The complex, to be built at Ness Point, will house about 30 small to medium-sized companies involved in offshore energy. The centre, due to open by mid-2008, is initially expected to create 150 jobs.

Project managers say the southern North Sea is emerging as the worldwide focal point for the industry, putting the £9m Orbis centre in prime position to secure huge investment for Lowestoft and the wider region.

Waveney MP Bob Blizzard, who has campaigned for Orbis as chairman of the Lowestoft Renewable Energy Steering Group, said last night: "Becoming a key centre for the emerging offshore wind energy business is Lowestoft's best hope for the future.

"The new Orbis centre will mean we can lead the way and become the wind energy capital of Britain. Lowestoft will now be able to benefit from billions of pounds which are due to be invested in offshore developments all around the coast of East Anglia."

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The extra £3m from the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) brings its total investment to £6.7m.

Financial support has also come from the Government Office for the East of England, Suffolk County and Waveney District councils, Renewables East and European funding.

Mr Blizzard added: "If we hadn't got the extra £3m, it wouldn't have happened. Lowestoft is in absolutely the right place and it was an opportunity that we needed to grasp. It will act as a magnet for other industries to come to the area."

The extra money will help improve the building design and showcase sustainable development, with solar thermal heating and a biomass boiler. It will include an area for exhibitions and small conferences and there will be networking space to to help companies and universities share their knowledge.

Richard Ellis, EEDA chairman and joint chair of the National Working Group on Energy Efficiency, said: "Orbis Energy is not only a key to enable the east of England to capitalise on its vast natural energy resources and assist the region's businesses to seize new opportunities in this sector, but also it is a catalyst for the future regeneration of Lowestoft."

An area from The Wash to the Thames Estuary has been identified as a key location for offshore windfarms, meaning Lowestoft is in an ideal position to secure investment.

Eddy Alcock, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for the environment, estate management and economic development, said: "Orbis Energy will not only assist economic regeneration in and around Lowestoft, but will also encourage the development of the supply chain within the renewable energy sector in the east of England."