Plans are still underway to build the 68-turbine offshore East Anglian windfarm, Galloper – estimated to be worth £20million and 850 jobs to the local UK economy.
RWE Innogy said it hoped to make an announcement in the spring on the future of the 340MW windfarm, despite announcing two months ago it would not continue with the project.
The company is in talks with several potential partners to build the windfarm.
It is still working with Galloper’s joint owner Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) that announced in March it would not continue its interest in the Galloper wind farm beyond the current phase of development.
Stephen Thomas, head of communications for RWE Innogy UK, confirmed that RWE was talking with 'a number of companies' with SSE to proceed with Galloper as a Contracts for Difference Project, but with an outside possibility of the project still being developed under the Renewables Obligation.
“We are looking at all options for Galloper to see where the project goes in the future. We all want the project to work. We hope that in March/April time, we can come out with something that explains what the future for the project is.”
Johnathan Reynolds, business development lead at offshore renewable energy hub OrbisEnergy, said the news would be welcomed across the industry and the community.
“Lowestoft had already been selected as Galloper’s operations and maintenance base, creating long-term skilled engineering jobs and increasing security for the businesses that already support the Greater Gabbard wind farm operations base on the same site.
“There is good reason for the momentum to be continued and it is heartening that RWE does consider Galloper to be economically feasible and a project worth pursuing. Nearly three-quarters of the UK’s windpower capacity would soon be off the coasts of Suffolk, Norfolk, and Essex.”
Waveney MP Peter Aldous said in October that he hoped it would be a postponement rather than a shelving of the wind farm capable of generating power for 330,000 households each year.
“This is excellent news that the plans are still moving forward. This project will result in significant benefits to the whole region – and our economy and employment prospects,” he said.
“Off-shore wind power is a central part of our huge potential for growth in the energy sector and I look forward to hearing a positive announcement in the spring.
“Right now we have more offshore wind generation off the region’s coast than anywhere in the world, and with it some significant opportunities for local businesses. That’s only going to increase with the development of Galloper,” he said.
In October RWE said it would not be progressing with Galloper – an extension to Greater Gabbard - in 'its current form'.
Tight timescales to secure finance and accreditation in line with the support mechanism, Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs), had made the project too uncertain for the company to proceed, the October statement said.
Despite investor interest, including the Green Investment Bank, and support from the project's supply chain partners, RWE feared the project would not meet April 2017 deadline for the Renewables Obligation.
But a change to the Contracts for Difference mechanism meant a 'different set of rules' and a new regime for the windfarm, to be built 17 miles off the coast.
“RWE is now looking at the support mechanism potentially replacing ROC, Contracts for Difference” Mr Thomas said.
In a statement, RWE said: “This process naturally involves engaging with a number of different companies, however at this stage, no appointments have been finalised and as such, we are unable to provide any further details at this time.”
The news may not be so well received by other UK developers due to the limited Contracts for Difference funding pot currently available. Galloper is seen as potentially very competitive with Round 3 offshore wind contenders.
Other major consented offshore wind projects such as East Anglia One and Race Bank are also expected to be bidding for support under the first allocations under CfD, which would bring significant benefits to the region.
More than 13,000 people in the UK now owe their livelihoods to offshore wind and, in the long-term, it has the potential to employ up to 44,000 people by 2023.