Saturday, February 1, 2014
The North Sea wind power revolution gathered pace yesterday with a key announcement that cleared the way for the next multi-billion pound investment off the East Anglian coast.
More than 200 industry representatives attended a briefing at the Orbis Energy Centre in Lowestoft yesterday to hear that the Suffolk port had been chosen as the operations and maintenance base for the Galloper offshore wind farm due to be operational by 2018.
The announcement paves the way for work to start on the £3.5m conversion of the ABP port’s old fish market into the new base.
The highest value investment to take place on the project so far blew away any doubts about the commitment of developers RWE Innogy and SSE to the extension of the 140-turbine Greater Gabbard wind farm off the Suffolk coast.
East of England Energy Group (Eegr) chief executive Simon Gray told the briefing that recent speculation in the trade press about the developers’ ongoing commitment to the British market had been “the elephant in the room”.
However, the region’s sub-contractors and suppliers were immediately put on stand-by to bid for their slice of millions of pounds worth of contracts as the tendering process was stepped up in the coming months.
Emphasising the importance of the scheme to local workers, the meeting was told that 65pc of the money spent on the day-to-day running of the Greater Gabbard wind farm went to local suppliers.
Waveney MP Peter Aldous described yesterday’s announcement as an “important staging post on the journey that will see Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft become real international hubs in the energy sector”.
He said: “The investment of £3.5m in the first instance will bring long-term jobs that will remain for decades.
“It is the foundation stone that will enable us to build really good industry here on the East coast.”
He said Yarmouth and Lowestoft’s attractiveness for business would be further boosted with assisted area status while the local colleges, in hand with Eegr, were working hard to address skills shortages.
Bart Oberink, director of a project which will see up to 85 turbines installed 30km out to sea, said: “The ABP port of Lowestoft has proved itself extremely capable as the base for the existing Greater Gabbard windfarm and we are delighted to confirm this port for Galloper wind farm.”
He described the Galloper site as “one of the most attractive in England” with optimum water depth and tidal conditions.
He said 70 staff were already in place and the project would eventually require up to 110 employees working onshore and offshore, the majority based locally.
Mr Oberink said more than £12m had been spent on the project to date, nearly 50pc of it in the East of England, and a deal with third party investors to complete the funding was expected to be reached later this year.
Onshore work at Leiston on a sub-station and cabling was set to begin within months and work offshore was likely to start next year; the wind farm would be fully commissioned in 2018.
Once operational, it could generate enough energy to power the equivalent domestic needs of about 330,000 average households.
ABP deputy port manager for East Anglia, Roger Arundale, said: “This contract is a great vote of confidence for our port and the wider area and is a welcome consolidation of Suffolk’s ‘green’ coast acting as a springboard for investment and job creation in the locality.”