Winds of change blowing through Norfolk

Amongst the many crises we seem to be confronting almost on a daily basis is the matter of energy to keep our homes warm and lit, and business running. Everyone is likely gritting teeth ahead of threatened energy price hikes set to happen just as winter looms. The, ahem, ‘explanations’ for this situation which we have been asked to swallow include the suggestion that there has been a dearth of wind – some say not from our politicians!

Wind is important to us in the east of England. We don’t welcome that lazy easterly wind that cuts right through rather than going around us in the colder months. Yet, we are becoming more and more reliant on it to replace the damaging consequences of using fossil fuel to power our lives. Most people welcome the expansion of offshore windfarms in the North Sea because they benefit both the climate and local industry. But, as the windfarms expand across the North Sea, the power they generate has to brought ashore and then distributed to local electricity substations.

And this has become a problem in Norfolk of late. This is because cable runs are planned to criss-cross prime Norfolk countryside potentially causing problems for folk going about their everyday business. New or expanding windfarm fields north of Sheringham by Danish company Orsted and Norwegian company Equinor will lead to at least two separate trenches to bury cables running north-south from near Waybourne to an electricity substation south of Norwich. Furthermore, Swedish company Vattenfall plan expanded windfarm fields in the sea far out off Happisburgh with a planned cable trench running east west from the coast to a substation at Necton near Swaffham. We have previously mentioned the trench planned to come through Colby, just north of Banningham.

Previously, our parish council have voiced support for the expansion of offshore windfarms but have concerns about the onshore cable trenches, and they have expressed their view to our local MP Jerome Mayhew, amongst others. At their recent meeting, the Burgh and Tuttington Parish Council, agreed further action by joining a group of 30 other Norfolk Parish Councils whose aim is to limit onshore cable digging and support an alternative.

The alternative is something called an Offshore Transmission Network (OTN). The OTN is a bit like a ring main where the power generated by separate offshore windfarm fields is brought together in the equivalent of an offshore electricity substation and taken ashore by a single cable connecting to the national grid at a coastal location. Such a system is already operating in the North sea set up by and for other European countries. You can read more about it in this EDP article from last year.

Developing an OTN is now under review by our government but their wheels grind exceeding slow at times and not fast enough for the windfarm companies who are pretty much ready to go ahead now with their cable trenches. This is likely not the end of the story.