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Hope grows that Norfolk countryside won't have to be dug up for every new wind farm

PUBLISHED: 13:50 11 September 2019 | UPDATED: 08:06 12 September 2019

Necton Substations Action Group are campaigning for an offshore ring main. Picture: Dan Bennett

Necton Substations Action Group are campaigning for an offshore ring main. Picture: Dan Bennett

Archant

An energy firm has raised hopes that huge trenches will not be dug through Norfolk every time a new offshore wind farm is built.

The routes of the cable corridoors which will be dug to connect new offshore wind farms to the National Grid at Necton and Swardeston. Image: ArchantThe routes of the cable corridoors which will be dug to connect new offshore wind farms to the National Grid at Necton and Swardeston. Image: Archant

But it comes too late for three currently planned wind farms in the North Sea which will need two cable corridors to be carved across the countryside.

To connect them to the National Grid the windfarms - called Vanguard, Boreas and Hornsea 3, need two trenches, up to 60km long, to be dug from Weybourne to Swardeston, and a second trench from Happisburgh to Necton.

That has sparked fierce opposition from campaigners and studies show there would be severe disruption caused by HGVs and the construction.

The work is meant to start from 2021 and could last several years.

Three wind farms are planned off the Norfolk coast but the offshore ring main would come too late for them. Picture: Paul LangrockThree wind farms are planned off the Norfolk coast but the offshore ring main would come too late for them. Picture: Paul Langrock

But rather than dig the trenches, campaigners want energy companies to connect the wind farms to the National Grid at the coast rather than inland.

To do that National Grid would need to build something called an Offshore Ring Main (ORM) along the coast.

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In response to a meeting with North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb about building an ORM, National Grid wrote: "One possible solution which we are exploring to minimise the onshore impact of our infrastructure is for several offshore wind farms to be connected offshore via a ring main, reducing the number of individual inshore connections."

But the letter adds that it would need up-front investment.

National Grid had ruled out an ORM earlier this year and Mr Lamb described the current approach as "stupid".

But he said: "I was pleased when I met National Grid that they recognise the frustration that the Norfolk countryside keeps getting ploughed up every time there is a new development offshore.

"This points the way to a means of avoiding it in the future."

Jenny Smedley, a campaigner for the Necton Substations Action Group, said: "It is good that they now know people are on to them. It is good for future generations."

Orsted, the company behind Hornsea 3, supported the idea of an offshore ring main, while Vattenfall, which is building Boreas and Vanguard said: "All stakeholders are thinking strategically about how we gear up to meet net zero carbon emission objectives."

A National Grid spokesman said: "We are looking ahead and exploring all strategic connection options for the next generation of wind farms which includes the possibility of an offshore ring main.

"It's too early to say what the decision will be as there is a lot of work to do, but we'll certainly be engaging with local communities to understand their concerns and develop options that cause the least disruption".

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