Coutinho gives green light to stalled offshore wind farm extension

Claire Coutinho has granted planning consent for Equinor’s bid to double the size of its North Sea wind farms.

The energy secretary has granted a development consent order (DCO) for the Norwegian energy giant’s plan to extend its Sheringham Shoal and Dudgeon wind farms.

Equinor had applied to build and operate an array of up to 53 wind turbines with a combined generating capacity of 786MW.

The company’s plan will double the capacity of the existing wind farms, which are located off the Norfolk coast, by installing newer and more powerful turbines.

The proposed development also comprises the construction of up to two offshore transformer substations, connected to the north Norfolk shore by up to two subsea electrical circuits.

A new onshore cable would link the wind farms’ landfall point near Sheringham with a new purpose-built onshore sub-station north east of Norwich where the scheme would connect with the National Grid.

The development has been selected as a pathfinder project for coordinated offshore transmission development under the government’s Offshore Transmission Network Review.

Equinor says the DCO allows for an integrated transmission system as well as separate grid connections for each project.

The decision had been postponed twice before getting the green light.

The letter outlining the decision says mitigation measures have been secured to address the adverse impacts of the scheme identified by the planning inspectors, who had recommended that it should be refused.

Responding to Coutinho’s decision, Equinor said it was “delighted” and will review the consent granted in full detail to determine if and when the projects can be taken forward for Final Investment Decision.

Hilfdan Brustad, Equinor’s vice president for UK renewables, said: “The extension projects have been developed carefully over the last five years, with innovative approaches to transmission planning and consenting, underpinned by close engagement with the local community.

“The extensions build on our longstanding presence in Norfolk and we look forward to contributing even more positively to the local region and the UK’s offshore wind growth.”