UK gives go-ahead to giant windfarm project off Norfolk coast

The construction of two giant offshore windfarms is poised to go ahead off the Norfolk coast in what the renewable energy industry claims could provide a “huge boost” to the UK economy.

The business secretary, Alok Sharma, gave the green light on Wednesday evening to the Norfolk Vanguard project and said he was “minded to approve” the Hornsea 3 proposal later this year.

The 1.8GW Norfolk Vanguard windfarm will be more than 40 miles off the Bacton coast by the Swedish energy group Vattenfall. The 2.4GW Hornsea 3 windfarm, which is being proposed by the Danish company Orsted, would extend the Hornsea 1 and 2 projects further into the North Sea.

Together the two new projects would generate enough clean electricity to power almost 4m UK homes, as well as providing a boost to the economy, according to Renewable UK.

“Investments in major clean energy projects like these are great examples of how we can get the economy moving again,” said Hugh McNeal, the chief executive of the industry body.

“These projects will help us to maintain our global lead in offshore wind, as well as building up our UK supply chain. “Large scale offshore wind power is good for our environment and our economy, by tackling climate change will boosting productivity and creating thousands of jobs in the process.”

The government faces growing calls to invest in the UK’s green industries to help bolster the economy following the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gunnar Groebler, the head of Vattenfall’s wind power business, said the decision to approve the Vanguard project justified “the confidence that we have in the offshore wind sector in Britain”.

“Today’s news sends a strong signal that the UK is serious about its climate ambitions and is open for business to power a green economic recovery,” he said.

The greenlight from Sharma comes weeks after the government pushed back a decision deadline for another offshore Vattenfall windfarm, the 1.8GW Norfolk Boreas project, by up to five months.

At the time the company described the move as regrettable” and said it could “send the wrong signal” to the renewables industry.

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The government expects to make a decision on the Boreas project before the end of October, and on the Hornsea 3 project by the end of September subject to further information, which is required from Orsted.

An Orsted spokesman said that although the company was disappointed by the delay, it was confident that it would be able to provide the necessary evidence within the government’s timeframe.

“Hornsea 3 is a major infrastructure project which responds directly to the urgent need for low-carbon generation at scale in the UK and can contribute to a green economic recovery,” he said.

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