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Greater Gabbard: Commission completes milestone month

PUBLISHED: 07:30 29 September 2012

The Suffolk/Norfolk coast is leading the way in offshore wind

The Suffolk/Norfolk coast is leading the way in offshore wind

Milestone month as turbines of industry turn

THE emergence of green energy as a key industry in Suffolk has reached a major milestone after an offshore wind farm started to produce enough power to supply more than half a million homes.

The Greater Gabbard wind farm, off the coast of Sizewell, is now able to generate 500 megawatts of power through its 140 turbines.

And with two new wind farms in the pipeline on the Suffolk coast - East Anglia One, which will have up to 325, and the proposed 504MW Galloper extension to Greater Gabbard - experts say the industry is set to boom in the coming years.

A major industry body hailed the full operation of Greater Gabbard as a “landmark” in the development of renewable energy.

Trade experts labelled the last month “Super September”, following news that all 140 turbines at the 500MW capacity site off north Suffolk had been commissioned and exported electricity.

Its impressive potential would be eclipsed by the proposed East Anglia One development, which covers around 300km with up to 325 three bladed wind turbines providing an installed capacity of 1,200MW or 1.2 gigawatts, and is the first stage of one of the world’s largest offshore wind farms, East Anglia Offshore Wind (EAOW), that will generate around 7.2GW of electricity, enough power up to five million homes.

With the potential to provide nearly a third of the total energy supplied by offshore wind to UK homes, Greater Gabbard has also been acknowledge as generating vital investment to support the growth of our local economy.

Roughly £1.5 million was spent refurbishing a derelict part of the old Lowestoft fish market to transform it into an operation and maintenance base, including stores, round-the-clock control room and offices for 80 people.

A further half-a-million pounds has been sunk into building a new purpose built hanger and helicopter landing pad.

Scottish and Southern Energy plc, which is jointly in charge of the project with RWE npower renewables, will directly employ 25 full time local staff for the operation and administration of Gabbard.

Meanwhile, Greater Gabbard Offshore Winds Limited (GGOWL) has taken on the first workboat vessels from two new operators - Great Yarmouth-based Iceni Marine and Tidal Transit, operating from the North Norfolk coast.

Another notable contract has been awarded to local product supply specialists 3Sun for statutory inspections, while CLS Offshore and Lowestoft’s Windcat Workboats have all benefited from work on the Suffolk coast and the introduction to offshore markets beyond Greater Gabbard.

Two UK companies - Wood Group based in Aberdeen and Steel Engineering of Renfrewshire - also won contracts worth more £17m to manufacture, install and operate two weather monitoring stations in the East Anglia wind farm zone. The 1,000 tonnes of steel needed for the weather stations’ foundations will be manufactured at a new engineering plant on the outskirts of Glasgow.

The UK now has more than 2.67 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity installed - enough to power more than 1.8m homes - with Greater Gabbard able to power 530,000 homes, based on annual household consumption of 3,300kWh.

All the turbines have now been commissioned and are exporting electricity, despite developers GGOWL remaining in a contractual dispute with engineering, procurement and construction contractor Fluor, relating to the quality of turbine supporting foundations and the ability of the structures to operate for their entire design life.

As well as Greater Gabbard, two other major offshore projects were opened in September, with Statoil and Statkraft’s Sheringham Shoal wind farm off the coast of Norfolk adding 317MW, and Vattenfall’s Ormonde wind farm off the coast of Cumbria opening with a capacity of 150MW.

September also saw the opening of a new offshore wind manufacturing facility at the Tata Steel plant in Hartlepool.

Maria McCaffery, chief executive of trade association RenewableUK, said: “This is a landmark month for the British offshore wind industry, with more than 2.6 gigawatts of wind energy now installed.

“It’s amazing to think that the capacity of the three offshore wind farms which have either officially opened or gone operational this month has added very nearly a gigawatt in September alone.

“It provides clear evidence of the extraordinary progress being made in this dynamic sector - the UK has more capacity installed offshore than the rest of the world put together, and we keep on extending that lead.

“What all three of these projects have also demonstrated is that, as well as providing clean energy, the construction and operation of offshore wind farms can provide vital investment needed to support the growth of local economies here in the UK.”

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