Green light given to offshore plans

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Plans which will help keep Blyth at the forefront of the offshore wind industry have been given the green light.

Dual planning consents have been approved for the construction of the UK’s largest offshore wind demonstration site, which could help lower the costs of offshore wind farms.

The Marine Management Organisation granted permission to the National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec) to construct the 99.99mw wind farm, featuring 15 turbines, off the coast of Blyth.

And Northumberland County Council also granted permission for the construction of the supporting onshore infrastructure, including the electrical substation that will transfer the power created by the demonstration turbines to the grid.

The project is the first large-scale deep water demonstration site in the UK to be granted both offshore permits and onshore consent, and is seen as an essential facility for the industry to be able to test next-generation offshore wind technology cost-effectively and in realistic environmental conditions before commercial production.

For Narec, the £350m demonstration site will be the final piece in the jigsaw as part of its strategy to provide a complete suite of independent open access test facilities, enabling manufacturers to reduce the risks and costs associated with developing the new technologies that will be needed in Round 3 projects.

Narec facility chief executive Andrew Mill said: “We’re delighted to have reached such an important milestone and my thanks go to the project team including consultants Natural Power and Turner and Townsend in getting us to this stage.

“We’re now in talks with potential investment partners to build out the demonstration site.

“Construction of the first array is targeted to be completed in 2015.”

Shaun Nicholson, head of Offshore Marine Licensing for the MMO, added: “The Blyth project is the largest site we have approved for the testing of turbine devices.

“We aim to enable sustainable growth in making decisions about developments at sea.

“We consider economic benefits alongside any adverse impacts, such as on the environment and other users of the marine area.

“We have worked with Narec to ensure the development satisfied such conditions.”