Equinor progresses plans for offshore wind farm extensions

  • Proposal to extend Dudgeon and Sheringham Shoal Offshore Wind Farms
  • Developments in the projects’ plans include decision for landfall at Weybourne
  • First phase of community consultation due to start this summer

Equinor is preparing to begin its public consultations with Norfolk communities on its proposed wind farm Extension Projects, planned to be built adjacent to Equinor‘s existing offshore wind farms off the North Norfolk coast.

The company has operated out of Norfolk for close to a decade and currently employs over 100 people in the region. Sheringham Shoal and Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farms provide renewable electricity for 750,000 UK homes; the two proposed Extensions Projects would increase capacity to provide electricity for over one and a half million homes across the UK. These projects will play a major role in meeting legislated UK targets to reduce carbon emissions.

Both proposed wind farms are classed as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs), which means Equinor will apply for a Development Consent Order from the Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy.

As part of the planning application process, the company will publish a Statement of Community Consultation (SoCC) in summer 2020. The document will set out how it will engage with the local community to ensure that they can provide comments and feedback on the plans as they develop. Equinor is also working with local councils to ensure that the draft proposal takes their considerations into account.

The SoCC will detail the timeline for consultations, and how and where people can find information and contact the company. In light of the current restrictions to public gatherings owing to COVID-19 Government guidance, the company is taking extra care to ensure that all interested parties will have access to all the information.

Decision for the land fall at Weybourne

The projects have considered two alternative landfall locations for where the offshore export cables will come ashore, Weybourne and Bacton. Supported by technical and environmental analysis Weybourne has been selected as the landfall point.

“The decision about the landfall point has been made on a balance of considerations including technical feasibility and ensuring minimum harm to the environment,” said Kari Hege Mørk, project leader at Equinor.

“We recognise that the community of Weybourne has been affected by the construction of previous offshore wind farms, and we want to work with the local Parish Council, residents and landowners to develop the plans in the most environmentally responsible and considerate way.

“Through our consultation process we will be encouraging local people to help inform our site selection process for the location of the onshore substation area and refinement of the onshore cable route. We have been operating out of Norfolk for around a decade, and we will continue to be a good neighbour in the communities where we work.”

Changes to project scoping boundary

Equinor is intending to increase the area within the project search boundary (the Scoping Area) in several locations along the onshore cable corridor. The scoping boundary was published in October 2019 in the company’s Scoping Report. The changes are needed in order for the company to consider alternative cable route options where there are other infrastructure projects and environmental sensitivities.

“As the projects develop, we will work with local councils, stakeholders and the communities in affected areas,” continued Kari Hege Mørk.

“It is extremely important to us that the plans for these projects are well-informed and take all available information into account. We look forward to engaging with the community when the consultation starts this summer and maintaining channels of open dialogue.”

Further information on the changes to the Scoping Area will be published online.

What has happened so far and next steps
Equinor is committed to open and clear dialogue with anyone interested in the project. The timeline below gives an overview of the steps taken so far, and what to expect next.

  • In August 2019 The Crown Estate awarded seabed rights for both Dudgeon Extension and the Sheringham Extension Projects.
  • An agreement has been signed for a common connection to the National Grid network at Norwich Main substation, south of Norwich.
  • In October 2019, Equinor published a Scoping Report, supported by initial environmental assessments. At the same time Equinor held a consultation event
  • The scoping report set out plans to bring forward both extension projects in a single planning (DCO) application
  • Since the Scoping Report the company has undertaken further and more detailed impact assessments of the project proposals
    • Geophysical surveys of the potential cable routes have been completed
    • Onshore ecology surveys along the cable route are ongoing
  • This has informed decisions such as the landfall site and some extensions to the onshore scoping boundary to allow additional onshore cable route options to be considered
  • Equinor is also meeting with local councils and stakeholders to ensure an effective forthcoming community consultation
  • The company has already engaged with several local landowners and now the landfall site has been decided, and the scoping boundary refined, will continue discussions with potentially affected landowners in the coming weeks as part of the consultation
  • After councils have had a chance to comment, the SoCC will be published online and made available to the communities – Equinor expects this to be this summer
  • The SoCC will set out dates for future consultation and will detail how the company intends to ensure people are kept informed, despite the current restrictions on public gatherings and building use.
  • The company will summarise the comments received and show where it has been able to incorporate feedback as part of the main application
  • The company intends to submit the DCO application by the end of 2021

The Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm is owned by Equinor, Masdar and China Resources, whilst the shareholders in the Sheringham Shoal Offshore Wind Farm are Equinor, Equitix and Green Investment Group.

Currently, the combined output of both wind farms is sufficient to power around 750,000 UK homes, and the proposed extensions will increase that to around 1.5 million UK households.

Equinor operates the wind farms from its bases in Egmere and Great Yarmouth where over 100 people are employed to maintain operations at the wind farms.

Both wind farms have established community funds which in total have awarded over £1 million to projects in Norfolk. The funds were set up to provide grants to Norfolk community groups, including schools and NGOs, seeking financial assistance for projects or initiatives that meet key criteria and focus on renewable energy, marine environment and safety, sustainability, or education in these areas. For the remaining months of 2020 the funds will be providing grant funding to the Norfolk Community Foundation‘s COVID-19 funding initiatives, specifically for COVID-19 support initiatives in Norfolk.

For further information please contact:

Juliette Sanders
Equinor UK
T: 07771 918009
M: 07860 206565
E: Julsa@equinor.com

Issue date: 20-05-20