Special report: The promise of jobs and investment - this is what major offshore windfarm plan could mean for Norfolk and Suffolk
- Credit: Archant
Ministers yesterday gave the green light to a giant windfarm off the Lowestoft coast – but now the crucial test will be whether it will fulfil its promise of bringing jobs and investment.
Just off our coastline, plans are now afoot to create one of the world's largest offshore windfarms.
East Anglia One is one of six schemes set to be built off these shores bringing with it the potential for thousands of jobs both during the construction phase and thereafter in the 20 year life of the project. And yesterday it secured ministerial approval to proceed.
Based off the coast of Suffolk, the £520m scheme, a joint venture owned equally by ScottishPower Renewables and Vattenfall, could support around 1,800 local jobs and pump more than £500m into the region's economy.
Construction is expected to start in 2017 with the offshore installation commencing in 2018, with the developer estimating that generation will start in 2019.
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East Anglia One currently plans to install up to 240 wind turbines, meaning the windfarm would be significantly larger than the current biggest wind farm in the world – the London Array.
But the next step is for ScottishPower Renewables and Vattenfall to secure the investment needed to get it off the ground.
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And just how will it deliver all those jobs?
This country does not yet manufacture wind turbines on the scale needed for this project, though German-owned engineering giant Siemens is to build major wind turbine production and installation facilities on the banks of the Humber.
So it is likely that it will be overseas companies which are awarded that task. However, it is in the supply chain where our businesses are likely to capitalise with Great Yarmouth-based firms such as Seajacks, 3Sun, and Gardline already established as big players in the industry. And with Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft already chosen as bases for other windfarms off our coast at Dudgeon and Greater Gabbard, they must also be well placed to win work with East Anglia One too.
James Gray, inward investment director at the East of England Energy Zone, said: 'It has tremendous potential for us and it will bring new investors into the region. If you look at the major investments in offshore wind over the next 10 to 15 years, an awful lot of it is close to the Norfolk/Suffolk coast.
'It would be totally unacceptable if you had these major projects supported by the taxpayer that are then delivered from France, Germany or Denmark, particularly if you have got a perfectly good supply chain here.'
Jonathan Cole, managing director of offshore wind, ScottishPower Renewables, is in no doubt about the size of the prize. 'The potential for people in East Anglia to get involved in this project and benefit from it is huge,' he said. 'It's very exciting for the UK renewable energy sector and will contribute the energy to power more than 800,000 homes. If we can bring the full potential of this project forward, we can repeat it.'
Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said: 'East Anglia and the rest of the UK have a lot to gain from this development. The project has the potential to inject millions of pounds into the local and national economies, and support thousands of green jobs. Making the most of Britain's home grown energy is crucial in creating job and business opportunities, getting the best deal for customers and reducing our reliance on foreign imports.'
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HOW TO GET INVOLVED
Businesses will get their first chance to find out how they can bid to be part of the supply chain for the new windfarm in September. East Anglia Offshore Wind has agreed to hold two events with the East of England Energy Group to shed more light on how firms can get involved. The first will take place in September while there will be a further update at EEEGR's Southern North Sea Conference next March.
Simon Gray, EEEGR chief executive, said: 'It is 10 years since we began developing expertise in the sector with one of the UK's first commercial windfarms built at Scroby Sands, off Great Yarmouth.
'Now we can look forward to the massive East Anglia One project off the same coast. Everything we have achieved to date has been a preparation for this moment, and I am sure we will rise to the challenges ahead – whether in manufacturing, installation or operations and maintenance. We are perfectly placed and highly skilled and I'm confident the East of England will have a major role to play in this pioneering project.'