Investment shows Great Yarmouth is at the forefront of offshore wind energy

The Esvagt Njord, which will transport maintenance crew to the Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm.

The Esvagt Njord, which will transport maintenance crew to the Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm. - Credit: Archant

East Anglia's position in the vanguard of renewable energy has been underlined by the opening of an operations centre which will manage wind farms off the Norfolk coast – and further afield.

Statoil opened the Dudgeon Operations Centre in Great Yarmouth and christened the wind farm's newest vessel, the 80-metre Esvagt Njord, named after the Nordic god of the sea, which will transfer technicians to the 67 turbines off the north Norfolk coast.

The £1.5bn Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm project is due to be online by August next year but the first turbine could be generating power within four months.

As well as being the headquarters for the Dudgeon farm, the Yarmouth centre will manage Statoil's Hywind pilot wind farm off the Scottish coast.

Head of Statoil UK's wind operations Rune Rønvik said the investment showed the company's commitment to Great Yarmouth, where 70 people will be employed at the base.

At the opening of the centre yesterday he said: 'As well as bringing this employment to the area we have already seen that we are benefitting from the suppliers in this area. When we needed a contract for our lifting equipment certification we went to Seatrax just up the road, fuel and stevedoring we have gone to our neighbours Petersons across the road. We feel we are in an area where we can get all the services we require.'

The coastal town will also be the home port for the high-tech Njord which will be the first vessel of its kind to work in UK waters.

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The ship, which is thought to cost around £40m, has accommodation for 58 people and features two cinema and games rooms as well as a barbecue area as it provides a home at sea for its crew and a team of technicians. The Njord uses digital positioning technology to enable it to move small distances, to 6cm of accuracy, as it transports staff and equipment to the wind farm. Mr Rønvik said the company believed the vessel would be the safest and most practical solution to transporting technicians as it would allow them to spend full working days on turbines and ensure their comfort during their 14-day shifts. It is estimated the farm will generate enough power from its 6MW turbines to power the equivalent of 410,000 households.

The centre was opened by Graham Plant, leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, who said it showed the town remained at the vanguard of offshore wind in the UK. He said: 'Quite literally there is a sea of opportunity out there for investors and residents alike. The East Anglian region of the North Sea has some of the best conditions in the world to develop offshore wind power projects.' Is your business investing in the area? Write to doug.faulkner@archant.co.uk

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