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Huge barge's role in new wind farm

PUBLISHED: 12:00 08 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:07 03 July 2010

Dominic Bareham

MOTORISTS using Riverside Road in Gorleston would have been greeted by an unusual sight moored on the River Yare this week - a large barge taking up almost half the river mouth.

MOTORISTS using Riverside Road in Gorleston would have been greeted by an unusual sight moored on the River Yare this week - a large barge taking up almost half the river mouth.

The huge Discoverer vessel, 31.6m wide, has been moored on the South Denes side of the river opposite Gorleston Lifeboat station this week while workers from offshore construction firm SubOcean lay power cables for a new offshore wind farm off Sizewell.

Since arriving on December 27, the barge has been a temporary home for 30 staff involved with the project to lay 50km and 20km cables connecting the Inner Gabbard offshore substation to the Sizewell power plant. Engineers will also be laying 140 cables, connecting the wind turbines at the Greater Gabbard wind farm to the substation.

The barge was due to leave this week to head out to Greater Gabbard, where building work on the 140 new turbines has been taking place since last autumn. The first wind turbines are set to be installed in the spring, 23km away from the Sizewell plant.

And a third generation of offshore wind farms including a £15bn project off the Norfolk coast, predicted eventually to bring thousands of jobs, was expected to be announced today.

A consortium involving Scottish Power and Vattenfall, a state-owned Swedish power group, is understood to have secured the rights for an area marketed as the Norfolk zone, one of nine put up for auction by the Crown Estates. The windfarm, likely to have at least 1,000 turbines, and dwarfing the 30-turbines Scroby Sands wind farm, will be built about 15 miles off the coast between north Norfolk and north Suffolk.

Construction is likely to start towards the end of the decade and the wind farm, built in phases over several years, could ultimately have a generating output potentially five times greater than Sizewell B nuclear power station.

John Best, chief executive of the East of England Energy Group (Eeegr), said: “Aberdeen spoke with one compelling voice for the oil and gas industry and reaped the benefits. We have a unique opportunity with our geographical location, shallow water, twin ports of Yarmouth and Lowestoft and established skills in offshore engineering to make the East of England the home of renewable energy.”

Paul Chilvers, regional director of Yarmouth-based offshore energy firm ODE which project-managed the construction of Scroby Sands, was optimistic the Norfolk wind farm would be one of the easiest of the round three projects to develop, with the potential for regional firms to become involved. But he said his one disappointment was that most of the kit and installation equipment would be sourced overseas.

Adam Westwood, renewable energy manager for energy consultants Douglas-Westwood, said: “The developers are going to have to find a lot of investment and there will be a lot of issues to resolve, such as the effect on fishing and shipping.”


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