The cost of energy and where it comes from has never been so universally discussed. Offshore wind is now the cheapest form of energy generation.

When Vattenfall’s Norfolk Boreas offshore wind farm secured government auction success with a clutch of renewable energy projects last July, the price of offshore wind power fell to a new record low.

Its turbines 47km off the Norfolk coast will start generating in 2027, followed by Norfolk Vanguard, for the mammoth Norfolk Offshore Wind Zone to power nearly four million UK households with green electricity, saving about six million tons of carbon dioxide.

As the east of England ends its celebrations for Wind Week 2022, Danielle Lane, Vattenfall’s UK country manager, said: “The Norfolk projects are really important to the UK and to Vattenfall. They will be about 4pc of UK domestic demand when they are built and have a fundamental role in the energy transition.

“The UK government has a target of 50GW of offshore wind by 2030. Our 3.6GW projects will be almost 10pc of that total target, so are fundamental to the success of the UK, and to Vattenfall.

“As an industry we have done really well and reduced the cost of construction by 60-67pc in the last 15-16 years. That is huge and means we are competitive with any form of generation out there.”

After years in planning, the Norfolk Zone is now signing contracts for key partnerships ahead of construction work starting early next year on the 60km cable corridor from landfall at Happisburgh to the onshore substation site at Necton.

Project director Rob Anderson said: “Working with our partners, we’ll be using cutting-edge engineering expertise to deliver vital grid infrastructure that will help to turn East Anglia into a powerhouse of renewable energy.

“There are not many projects as big or as complex as what we have taken on.

“This project was always going to be complex in the way we are using HVDC (high-voltage direct current) technology and integrating that into a single cable corridor. This is unique and where the rest of the industry needs to go, and we have been pushing that through.”

HVDC technology offers one of the most efficient means of transmitting large amounts of power over long distances. 

Even with consent for both Norfolk Boreas and Norfolk Vanguard, the teams continue to improve and develop the project as new technology and innovations become available.

Since consent, the footprint of the onshore substation electrical infrastructure at Necton has been cut by a quarter by using newer cables and an innovative configuration of the electricity network.

Local people asked for the Necton infrastructure, where power generated joins the National Grid, to be as discreet as possible.

Vattenfall worked to reduce converter stations from the original four to three, so it is now about 25pc smaller and less visible on the landscape. This goes hand-in-hand with its commitment to build, operate and decommission a wind farm with minimum impact on the natural world.

Environmental mitigation is part of Vattenfall’s culture and ethos. Its consenting team is dedicated to ensuring protection of land and marine habitats and species in and around the projects – and making sure Vattenfall does what it says it will do in its consent orders.

Offshore consents manager Yana Bosseva said Vattenfall would implement noise mitigation for its offshore seabed piling activities, even though the UK had no official limits.

“As well as thinking very carefully about noise impacts on marine mammals and noise mitigation during piling activities, we are working on compensation for birds and are planning to build some artificial nesting structures to ensure the protection of specific species.”

Yana's colleague Ruby Beaupierre said: “We look at everything in terms of compensation and what we can do to try to ensure that we have a minimal impact on the environment.

“If our cable route is located in close proximity to a badger sett, for example, there will be a buffer zone around to make sure we avoid disturbance.

“Where an impact is unavoidable, we make sure there is appropriate mitigation in place. For example, for badgers, we would work with local ecologists to create an artificial badger sett and relocate the badgers away from the affected area.”

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