The Threat

About SEAS

Suffolk Energy Action Solutions (SEAS), founded in August 2019, is a community group set up to campaign against the severe adverse impacts of ScottishPower Renewables two offshore wind projects, East Anglia One North (EA1N) and East Anglia Two (EA2). SEAS is in favour of offshore wind energy but against the current proposals for the delivery of that wind power to the grid which will have a devastating impact on our onshore environment, local tourist economy and coastal communities.

The Immediate Effect – ScottishPower Renewables (SPR) Windfarm Projects East Anglia One North (EA1N) and East Anglia Two (EA2)

ScottishPower Renewables, (an indirect subsidiary of Spanish multinational electric utility company, Iberdrola SA) has submitted two applications to the Planning Inspectorate for two separate development consent orders (DCO) for the construction and operation of the East Anglia ONE North (EA1N) and East Anglia TWO (EA2) Offshore Windfarms. They were submitted to the Planning Inspectorate in tandem. Development consent for EA1N and EA2 is required to the extent that the development is or forms part of a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP). As NSIPs, the Projects fall within the remit of the Secretary of State.

If these two projects are approved, they open the floodgates for a raft of other energy projects, industrialising and concreting over currently unspoilt countryside in Coastal Suffolk.

The proposed location for the offshore windfarms is in the southern North Sea, approximately 36 km and 32.6km respectively from the Suffolk coast at its nearest point and would occupy an area of up to 208 /218 km2. The landfall connection for both works will be located through the fragile cliffs north of Thorpeness, and the onshore substation and overhead line realignment works will be located in the vicinity of Grove Wood, Friston.

The Development Consent Order would, amongst other things, authorise:

  1. The offshore wind turbines and their associated foundations. Up to 67 offshore wind turbines for EA1N and 75 for EA2. The maximum height of the blade tip would be 282m above sea level.
  2. One offshore meteorological mast and its foundations for each project;
  3. Subsea cables for each project connecting the wind turbines and the offshore platforms;
  4. Up to one offshore construction, operation and maintenance platform and its foundations for both Projects;
  5. Up to four offshore electrical platforms and their foundations for both Projects;
  6. A network for each project of subsea platform link cables;
  7. Up to two offshore subsea export cables to transmit electricity from the offshore electrical platforms to landfall located north of Thorpeness in Suffolk for each project;
  8. Two sets of landfall connection works north of Thorpeness;
  9. Two sets of Onshore cables commencing at landfall and running to the onshore substation in the vicinity of Grove Wood, Friston;
  10. A new EA1N onshore substation in the vicinity of Grove Wood, Friston and a second for EA2;
  11. Overhead line realignment works in proximity to Grove Wood, Friston including permanent realignment of a short section of the northern and southern overhead line circuits including the reconstruction and/or relocation of up to two pylons and construction of up to one additional pylon in order to realign the northern overhead lines and the reconstruction and/or relocation of up to one pylon in order to realign the northern overhead lines and the reconstruction and/or relocation of up to one pylon in order to realign the southern overhead lines;
  12. Temporary diversion of the northern and southern overhead line circuits;
  13. Temporary construction of up to three permanent cable sealing end compounds (one of which may include circuit breakers) and underground connectors;
  14. A new National Grid Substation covering an area of 30 acres approximately 18m high; and
  15. Each National Grid Interconnector will also require a 24m high convertor building located 5km distance from the National Grid Substation.
  16. Associated development comprising such other works as may be necessary or expedient for the purposes of or in connection with the relevant part of East Anglia One North and East Anglia Two.

The Places Affected

Ten communities will be hemmed in by the construction of haul roads, cable routes, substations, connectors and interconnectors for up to 15 years and probably more as shown in the map above.

A residential and tourist destination with hospitality outlets affected by Landfall.

SIZEWELL – A residential and leisure destination affected by the cable corridor and compounds.

ALDRINGHAM – A residential area affected by the cable corridor crossing the B1122 and the River One Hundred

LEISTON –the main town that will be impacted from the massive influx of temporary workers (the adverse social impact from the construction of Sizewell B is well documented.)

THEBERTON – Residential area & Farmland affected by Sizewell C Haul Road.

KNODISHALL – Residential area & Farmland and a pinch point for HGV traffic.

FRISTON – Substations and Interconnectors – the industrialisation of a medieval village.

SAXMUNDHAM – Residential and main grocery shopping area.

ALDEBURGH – The main tourist town with consequential impact on retail, hospitality and leisure activities.

SNAPE and SNAPE MALTINGS – these are accessed predominantly from the A1094, the main HGV access road from the A12.

Other villages and towns from Ipswich to Lowestoft will be adversely affected by the heavy traffic and congestion caused by the increased load of HGVs and other commercial vehicles required to bring about the proposed onshore infrastructure projects. These include the popular seaside destinations of Southwold and Walberswick and the local market towns of Woodbridge and Wickham Market.

The Issues

There are a number of issues that need to be considered fully within the remit of a formal review. These are the salient issues with amplifying comments:

SITE SELECTION AND ALTERNATIVES

– It is unclear why a coastal area rich in wildlife and exceedingly rare habitats was chosen over brownfield sites more suited to industrialisation. Alternatives, such as Island Hubs also appear to have been overlooked in the Application.
– National Grid has not answered many of the community’s questions and appear to have been absent during the consultation and the application process
– Ofgem, as a consumer cost regulator, has failed since the area chosen will cost more in cabling and mitigation each time new infrastructure is built, than  a brownfield site would cost – costs of which will go on the public user’s bill.

THE CUMULATIVE EFFECT

– The cumulative effect on local communities and the environment of multiple energy projects occurring consecutively over 12 to 15 years has not been fully taken into account:

LANDFALL

– The landfall site is unsuitable due to the fragility of the Thorpeness Cliffs, the shifting tidal shoreline, coastal erosion and climate change.
– The Landfall site will affect the England Coast Path and the first National Trail in Suffolk which is anticipated to bring economic benefits.

ENVIRONMENT

– 9 Km of cable trenches 60m wide destroying environmentally sensitive areas of AONB, SSSI, SPA, including The Sandlings and Fens heaths:
– UK has 20% of the World’s lowland heathland which is internationally recognised as a ‘rare habitat’. It should be protected and not dug up to release more carbon emissions.

WILDLIFE

– Threat to wildlife. It is not possible to mitigate damage to habitat of protected or endangered wildlife such as bats, badgers, barn owls, nightingales, skylarks and many species of migrating birds that live along the line of the intended cable route. For non-volant species, the destruction and modification of wildlife habitats, e.g. ground disturbance, is highest (Lovich & Ennen, 2013): soil compaction from heavy machinery can collapse burrows and crush small wildlife. There is no empirical research into how to mitigate any of these impacts on wildlife during construction
– Cabling will sever the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB and therefore the wildlife corridor, in turn causing problems to migrating species.

FARMLAND, WOODS, HEDGEROW

– Loss of 83 acres of Grade 2 and 3 agricultural land at a time where the UK should be more self-sufficient.
– Loss of woodland and hedgerows with inadequate mitigation. If not replanted with mature trees/hedgerows it can take a further 10 years (on top of the construction years) for them to mature and hide 18metre high infrastructures.
– The Woodland Trust are concerned about Grove Wood, which is designated as ‘ancient’ on Natural England Ancient Woodland Inventory.

ROADS

– The local road network is unsuitable for the high traffic levels of construction HGVs, associated service vehicles and workforce vehicles. The increased traffic on roads will endanger cyclists, walkers and residents.
– There will be inevitable delays of Emergency Services and should there be a Nuclear incident the evacuation routes would be severely hampered, both endangering lives.
– Impact on tourism, The DMO survey says traffic congestion and related issues would deter tourists from coming to the area.

PUBLIC RIGHT OF WAY (PRoW)

– The Application fails to address the impact on the amenity value of the 26 PRoWs that will be permanently or temporarily closed.
– There is a lack of detail on PRoW closures leading to disruption of the network, thereby leaving local walkers with very limited or no access at all.
– The Landfall site will affect the England Coast Path and the first National Trail in Suffolk which is anticipated to bring economic benefits to the region

TOURISM

– SPR’s media continually promote the job opportunities, this might be the case in Lowestoft with offshore jobs, but there are NO BENEFITS to the local community. There will be no additional local jobs, and the loss of tourism will impact Aldeburgh, Thorpeness, Snape Maltings and the surrounding villages.

LOSS OF JOBS

-The recent DMO survey states that the energy projects “could impact the local visitor economy by up to £40m per year” and has not been addressed in SPR’s application.
– Typically, small businesses operate on tight margins and these businesses may not survive.

LAND USE

These figures are an estimation of ScottishPower Renewables EA1N and EA2’s impact on the land use of the area. They are derived from SPR document: EA2 Land Use Cumulative Impact Assessment with the Proposed East Anglia ONE

North Project – Source : Preliminary Environmental Information for East Anglia TWO Offshore Windfarm, Appendix 21.1 Volume 3 Document Reference – EA2- DEVWF-ENV-REP-IBR-000816_001

https://www.scottishpowerrenewables.com/userfiles/file/EA2_PEI_Chapter_21_Appendix_21-1-CIA.pdf

sq metres

acres

Ha

Cable Corridor

635,000.00

156.91

63.5

Cable Route

205,000.00

50.66

20.5

Cable Route CCS’s

82,000.00

20.26

8.2

Temp. Roads

922,000.00

227.83

92.2

TOTAL

       
     

Substation Complex at Friston

51,000.00

12.60

5.1

CCS x 3

72,000.00

17.79

7.2

Permanent footprint for 2 SS

12,000.00

2.97

1.2

Access Road

79,000.00

19.52

7.9

NG Substation CCS

45,000.00

11.12

4.5

NG Permanent footprint*

640,002.60

64.00

64.0

TOTAL

*Unclear whether this is included in NG Substations CCS

From these proposals, we can deduce that 118 Ha of agricultural, woodland and recreational land is to be appropriated during construction and at least 20 Ha removed permanently.

This would be for one project only. For six Wind Farm transmission infrastructure projects, please multiply by 5 to be on the safe side.

LIGHT POLLUTION

– Light pollution from substations, compounds and construction areas with 24hr security lights will result in Suffolk’s famous dark skies lost.

NOISE POLLUTION

– Noise pollution from traffic, construction and the substations constant noise (for its operational life span will destroy Suffolk’s famous peace and tranquillity).

AIR POLLUTION

– Air pollution from traffic and trenches dug through Suffolk’s light sandy soil (which already blows and billows every summer), causing visibility hazard and health issues.

The Opportunity for a New Solution – A National Strategy for Offshore Transmission

The UK is a World leader in offshore wind power. However, undermined by the absence of a national strategy to connect that power to the grid system.

The Crown Estate and Crown Estate Scotland maps projecting the offshore wind leasing potential of the UK’s sea beds are a matter for concern. Within 50 years the UK could be surrounded by hundreds of windfarms. The present offshore ‘point to point’ transmission system would carve up precious land at an alarming rate destroying the land required for people to live, work and play in. New technologies have to be found.

A recent industry report from SSE stated that the present ‘point to point’ offshore transmission grid connection system is not sustainable and offshore solutions should be put in place. This is not a new idea. Reports stating this were published for review by Ofgem, National Grid and Government in 2008, 2011 and 2015. National Grid’s input to the 2008 report titled: “UK Offshore Energy Strategic Environmental Assessment” was prophetic: Para 193. “Indeed, if coordinated development does not occur and projects are considered on a piecemeal basis, the overall network design and substation extension requirements are certain to lead to a suboptimal solution with significant increase in the impact on the onshore network.

The UK should collaborate closely with other North Sea countries on the development of a meshed North Sea grid which would see our common goals to develop more renewable energy achieved more efficiently. The European Commission report on hybrid offshore wind projects found the potential of a 10% saving.

The North Sea Wind Power Hub (NSWPH) have made massive technological advances within the last two years and have invited UK and Norway to join them in the development of offshore energy islands

Here is an opportunity for the UK Government, National Grid, Ofgem and Developers to continue to be world leaders and trial an offshore transmission energy island. Legislation appears to be the bottleneck. This should not be so, during WWI and WWII legislation was swiftly put into place to help the nation fight the war. Today, to counteract COVID-19 new legislation has been passed to enable and administer vaccines in a matter of weeks. It is therefore within the power of this majority Government to bring in new legislation expeditiously.

We propose, as a matter of urgency, that the necessary legislation is put in place to allow the pooling of wind power from diverse developers into a main arterial corridor (a modular grid) bringing the power to a single Mega Hub closer to the Thames Estuary with a landfall on an already industrialised site, a brownfield site, thereby negating the need for incremental onshore substations around the East Anglian coast. According to our research of other North Sea countries and their plans, the construction of offshore modular grids with offshore substation platforms can take as little as four years to implement. Currently, the principal excuses for not going ahead with these more innovative solutions are the lengthy process (“it will take ten years”) and cost. We challenge both assertions as being incorrect. The collective corridor approach proposed by SEAS is faster than a prolonged judicial review and cheaper than the currently proposed outdated approach of onshore incremental substations. The cost efficiencies gained by the pooling of wind power and by the convergence into one single Mega Hub are quantifiable.

We propose the formation of a new task force or committee, with representatives from the various relevant institutions: the National Grid, Ofgem, wind power engineers, academics specialising in step change technology, DEFRA, BEIS, developers with a focused brief, to set out the trajectory to establish an offshore solution transmission infrastructure within five years, and with a business model requiring a levy to be placed on each participating developer together with a small premium for paying customers.

This is a win-win-win concept. The environment benefits, the economy benefits and the wind power industry benefits from a more efficient and sustainable collective approach. The evolving optimisation of our renewable energy delivery system requires a national strategy, not the current adhocracy.

Yes to Offshore Wind Energy, Let's Do it Right

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