Norfolk’s green economy has received a huge skills and investment boost with the approval of a controversial new wind farm.
The Norfolk Boreas Offshore Wind Farm could produce enough energy to power two million homes, and cable laying is expected to begin in late 2023. Approval is still being considered for sister project Norfolk Vanguard.
Swedish energy giant Vattenhall is behind the scheme – collectively known as the Norfolk Zone – which will cover over 1,300km² and include up to 300 wind turbines.
Norfolk Boreas has been designed for a coordinated grid connection, using 4×1.5 metre-wide cable duct trenches to transport the electricity produced by both projects. A phased approach to construction will also see cable works completed in short sections along the cable route, and quick land restoration to minimise environmental impact.
Vattenfall spokesperson Danielle Lane said: “This announcement and decision is a multi-billion-pound boost to the UK’s climate change progress, and keeps the East of England at the forefront of the green energy revolution. There will be a wealth of supply chain opportunities for companies, as well high skilled green jobs, coming directly to Norfolk. This project, alongside its sister project Norfolk Vanguard will be a world leading example of what well-coordinated energy delivery looks like, whilst making sure that low-cost renewable energy is produced for UK consumers.”
“We look forward to start work in the New Year with local communities, UK suppliers and our partners in Norfolk to bring this project to fruition and unlock its huge potential.”
East of England Energy Group (EEEGR) also welcomed the news, with chair Martin Dronfield saying, “This massive new development will bring new jobs to the region, both for our young people and also for our existing workforce transitioning from other sectors.
“It will bring investment to our region as the supply chain clusters around the projects’ delivery hubs and our ports are developed, and it will leave a lasting legacy in our regions for years to come.
“EEEGR recognises the disruption that the development will cause in some areas of our region and applauds the efforts of Vattenfall to mitigate this disruption to people’s lives and to the local environment.
“Of course, EEEGR also recognises that the effects cannot be completely removed and that there will be a price to pay to achieve the projects’ goals and, as such, we continue to support the efforts of the government’s Offshore Transmission Network Review to find a lasting solution to the effects of the current radial system of connecting wind farms to the National Grid.”
The scheme has proved controversial because of disruption to the environment, heritage and tourism. The Planning Inspectorate had recommended that it should not go ahead, citing the negative impact on marine life, birds, and internationally designated ecological sites, as well as the local community.
In response, Vattenfall announced a £15 million investment in community projects – the largest funding input by an offshore wind developer in the county.
Dr Catrin Ellis Jones, from Vattenfall, said: “People in Norfolk recognise that society needs to make changes to prevent climate change accelerating dangerously. This includes action at community and individual levels. As good neighbours in Norfolk, we want to support communities to make that change happen in their community and connect to what they love about Norfolk.”
The first round of funds from the Norfolk Zone Community Benefit Fund will be announced when cable laying begins.