North Sea: Centrica decision to pull out of wind farm project ‘may be good news’ says East Anglian energy sector leader

James Gray James Gray

Wednesday, December 25, 2013
6:00 AM

The decision by energy giant Centrica to pull out of a wind farm project in the North Sea off East Anglia could prove good news for the region, an energy secctor leader claims.

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James Gray, inward investment director for the East of England Energy Zone (EEEZ), said he was delighted to see Danish company DONG Energy Power (UK) invest £50million in taking over management of the Race Bank project 17 miles off Blakeney on the north Norfolk coast.

“DONG is the market leader in offshore windpower and the UK is one of its main markets so this could prove a very positive move,” he said.

“With the site between Norfolk and Humberside there is a compelling case for much of the work generated to come to our region.

“I’ve already been in touch with DONG to open the doors for business in Norfolk and Suffolk and offer a welcoming hand.

“They will be well aware that our key ports Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Wells have all supported offshore wind farm development supported by a vibrant supply chain and offshore expertise dating back 50 years.

“There is little doubt that DONG mean business and we want to encourage them to bring some of their investment here and enjoy benefits from the unique and unified public/private partnership behind the EEEZ.”

Mr Gray said he believed Centrica had pulled out not because of concern about the Race Bank project but increasing doubts about its overall energy investment. Earlier this year, Centrica also withdrew from its part in the construction of up to four new European pressurised nuclear reactors in the UK, including Hinkley Point and Sizewell.

And in September, the company decided not to proceed with its new-build gas storage project at Baird in the Southern North Sea and to put another project at Caythorpe in East Yorkshire on hold indefinitely.

But DONG recently acquired a 33.3% stake in the first two offshore wind projects
in the massive Round 3 Hornsea zone off the East Coast.

It also operates four UK offshore windfarms at Barrow, Burbo Bank, Walney 1 + 2, and Gunfleet Sands and is the majority shareholder in the world’s largest offshore windfarm London Array.

The company acquired a 25% stake in the 270MW Lincs offshore windfarm off Skegness from Centrica in 2009.

Belfast Harbour this year handed over its new £50m offshore wind terminal, one of the most advanced purpose-built offshore wind installation and pre-assembly sites in the world, to DONG and ScottishPower Renewables.

It will be used initially to support the development of the West of Duddon Sands Wind farm in the Irish Sea, a joint venture between the two companies.

Benj Sykes, from DONG Energy, said the Race Bank project fitted its existing plans to develop UK offshore wind projects.

Much of the preliminary work was done and Samuel Leupold, executive vice president of DONG Energy Wind Power, said he was confident of turning it into a successful project.

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