Suffolk/Essex: Region must seize on offshore wind farm investment

Great Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm

Great Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm - Credit: Archant

The region must seize the opportunity to build on it’s growing wind farm industry, an offshore expert today claimed following the Government’s announcement of a multi-million pound investment.

Tens of millions of pounds are being invested by the Government in the industry to create thousands of jobs and keep the UK as a “world leader” in the sector and marine engineering businesses in Essex and Suffolk could stand to benefit from the move.

Ministers said the £66 million funding to improve the supply chain for offshore wind developments, boost innovation and bring new products to market could help the industry contribute £7billion to the economy and create 30,000 jobs by 2020.

The UK currently has more offshore wind power than the rest of the world combined, and the strategy aims to expand the supply chain so more of the manufacturing is done in the UK, creating jobs and growth.

Robert Day, business development manager for Harwich-based AJ Woods Engineering, which provides support services to major offshore projects, said the commitment to the supply chain could prove a major boost to many companies.

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There are already several major offshore developments along the north Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk coastline, including Gunfleet Sands and Greater Gabbard, and plans are well under way for the East Anglia One project and the Galloper extension of Greater Gabbard.

Mr Day welcomed the new commitment but said that more “joined-up thinking” was needed between local authorities and the Government to make the most of such investment.

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He said: “It has a big knock-on effect but what’s frustrating is the lack of joined-up thinking. We would all rather see jobs created locally.

“If you look at previous developments like Greater Gabbard, which was the biggest in the world, and the London Array, there was a huge foreign contract. It’s mostly because the Germans, Danes, Dutch and Norwegians are ahead of us with marine engineering.

“There’s a lot going on and what’s happening with the developments such as Greater Gabbard is that there is a lot of maintenance and operations to be done and that continues for the life of the project and then the next wind farm comes a long and more jobs are required.”

Dr Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, said she was pleased that the Government was taking steps to ensure that companies investing in such significant projects would be engaging with UK businesses both at the installation and operational stage.

She said: “This is a really positive move to make sure that if we are going to be spending millions of pounds then Britain’s supply chain is involved.

“A lot of the investment is in the initial installation and then there’s the ongoing maintenance. The East Anglia Array (including East Anglia One) will become the biggest offshore wind farm in the world.”

The Government investment includes £20 million from the regional growth fund for a new manufacturing advisory service to help the UK supply chain become more competitive.

And £46 million will come from the Technology Strategy Board over five years to link up innovation between Government, industry and academics, and help companies bring new products to market.

Announcing the plans, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “This strategy will help keep Britain as the world leader in one of the most important industries of the 21st century.

“If we make the most of offshore wind’s potential in the UK, it can provide a big proportion of the energy that lights our homes and powers our economy.”

Yesterday’s announcement came as industry body RenewableUK revealed that the UK’s total onshore and offshore wind capacity had passed 10 gigawatts, providing enough power for the equivalent of 5.5million homes.

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