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Sharma approves Norfolk Vanguard’s DCO application

Words: Laura Edgar
Offshore wind turbines / iStock_000033111088

Energy secretary Alok Sharma has granted a development consent order (DCO) to construct and operate an offshore wind farm located more than 47 kilometres from the coast of Norfolk.

The application was for up to 200 wind turbine generators and associated onshore and offshore infrastructure.

The offshore site will occupy approximately 592 square kilometres over two distinct areas – Norfolk Vanguard East and Norfolk Vanguard West. 

The scheme was considered under the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) regime.

The development proposal comprises the construction and operation of up to 200 wind turbine generators. According to the application form submitted by Norfolk Vanguard Limited, the turbines will have a maximum tip height of up to 350 metres. It also includes up to two meteorological masts, up to two accommodation platforms, up to two offshore electrical platforms, inter-array cables that collect and transfer power generated by the wind turbine generators to the offshore substations, and export cables that take the electricity generated by the wind turbine generators to shore.

Underground cables will run from mean high water springs at Happisburgh South, Norfolk, to a new onshore project substation located east of the National Grid substation at Necton. The onshore works also include an underground connection between the two substations. 

The examining authority – the Planning Inspectorate – had recommended that the scheme should be refused. 

During the examination, Norfolk Vanguard proposed a number of changes to the development. These included a reduction in the number of wind turbine generators to 180, but after consultation with the firm and other parties after the receipt of the Planning Inspectorate's report, the maximum number of turbines that would form the development was reduced to 158.

The examining authority considered a number of principal matters including: landscape and visual assessment, socio-economic impacts, coastal change; air quality; commercial fisheries; substation safety issues; offshore biodiversity, biological environment and biodiversity; and findings and conclusions in relation to Habitats Regulations Assessment.

According to the decision letter, the examining authority said it could “not rule out an adverse effect on the integrity of sites and species designated under the Habitats Regulations”. It also concluded that cumulative impacts from the proposed development and other projects “on certain seabird species (separate from the impacts on the bird species from the Habitats Regulations sites) weigh against development consent being granted”. 

Overall, the examining authority found that the benefits of the proposed development outweighed its harm.

Nevertheless, following the examination, the Planning Inspectorate advised the energy secretary to refuse the DCO. However, it also said that should the energy secretary decide to grant the order, it should be made in the form recommended in Appendix D in the recommendation report (pdf).

Sharma noted that there were a range of views about the potential effects of the development, such as strong concerns expressed about the impacts on the landscape around the substation, traffic and transport impacts and potential contamination effects at the nearby site of an F-16 plane crash in December 1996. 

Taking into the examining authority’s consideration of these matters and the mitigation measures that would be put in place to minimise those impacts wherever possible, Sharma believes that the findings in the examining authority’s report and “the conclusions of the HRA together with the strong endorsement of offshore wind electricity generation in NPS EN-1 and NPS EN-3 mean that, on balance, the benefits of the proposed development outweigh its adverse impacts”. 

Therefore, he granted development consent.

Norfolk Vanguard Limited expects the first power to be generated by the mid-2020s.

Gunnar Groebler, senior vice-president for Vattenfall’s (the parent company of Norfolk Vanguard) wind business, said: “This decision justifies the confidence that we have in the offshore wind sector in Britain, and we’re looking forward to developing the project and benefiting the local community.

“Vattenfall’s purpose is to power climate smarter living. Decarbonising our economies starts with one of the most essential resources – electricity. This sends a strong signal that the UK is serious about its climate ambitions and is open for business to power a green economic recovery.”

Danielle Lane, country manager and head of offshore wind for Vattenfall in the UK, added: “This is a great step forward in the battle against climate change, to increase jobs and skills in the East of England, and for the offshore wind industry as a whole.

“The Norfolk Vanguard Offshore Wind Farm will generate 1.8 gigawatts of clean electricity when built. That’s enough to power almost two million homes each year while saving over three million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions – the same as taking approximately 1.6 million cars off the road.”

The decision letter and all documents relating to the development can be found on the Planning Inspectorate website.

Image credit | iStock