Equinor consolidates Norfolk wind operations to position for future growth
Equinor, operator of Dudgeon and Sheringham Shoal offshore wind farms off the Norfolk coast, has today announced it will combine the operations for both wind farms into one hub in Great Yarmouth.
The Sheringham Shoal and Dudgeon offshore wind farms are currently operated from separate bases in Egmere and Great Yarmouth, respectively. The new structure will mean that both sites will be operated from one state-of-the-art base in Great Yarmouth, capturing synergies from a combined control room, office and warehouse. The sites will also move to a single, upgraded communication system for improved efficiency and safety.
Further synergies will be leveraged offshore, as teams from both sites will share the existing Service Operations Vessel currently used by Dudgeon, maximising time in the field and reducing emissions from the overall operations. The new set up will be in place by end-September 2021.
Trine Ingebjørg Ulla, Head of Operations for Equinor's UK wind farms, said: "Both wind farms are performing extremely well within the current set up, but as we position ourselves for future growth we have a responsibility to both the UK consumer and to our shareholders to regularly assess our operations, and make sure we continue to operate our assets efficiently.
"With the new operating model, we will have greater access to our turbines offshore by reducing the impact of both weather and tidal restrictions. By bringing together the currently independent Sheringham Shoal and Dudgeon operations, we will also benefit from operational synergies from common communication systems, standardised operating procedures and combined emergency response provisions."
The Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm is owned by Equinor, Masdar and China Resources Company, whilst Sheringham Shoal Offshore Wind Farm is owned by Equinor, Equitix Offshore 5 (co-owned by Equitix and the Renewable Investment Group TRIG) and a fund managed by Macquarie Asset Management). Equinor is the operator of both wind farms and has been functioning out of Norfolk for close to a decade.
Together these wind farms can generate enough renewable electricity to power around 730,000 UK homes. As part of its accelerated renewables growth ambitions Equinor is also developing proposals to extend both wind farms with two extension projects that would double its offshore wind capacity in Norfolk.
Trine continued: "As well as our existing long-term operations, we are planning to grow our renewable business here, and so we will continue to be part of the community for decades to come. We are a leading employer in the area and our two community funds have donated over a million pounds to local projects across Norfolk over the last ten years, including supporting local campaigns to help people through challenges presented by COVID."
Whilst the operational base for Sheringham Shoal will relocate under the new structure, the wind farm's community fund of £100,000 a year will remain open to the existing catchment area in North Norfolk. Dudgeon's community fund, also £100,000 a year, will too remain in place. The Sheringham Shoal Visitor Centre at The Mo in Sheringham itself, has been an excellent educational resource for schools in the area as well as members of the public, and existing arrangements will remain under the new model.
The Sheringham Shoal operational team and partners have been based in Wells-next-the-Sea and the surrounding area for many years, initially operating within the old school building in Wells and later moving to Wind Farm Place, Egmere.
Karl Butler, the Sheringham Shoal plant manager, said: "We are of course sad to be leaving the area in which we have built strong business and community relationships and received great support throughout the years, but it is a move to further strengthen our operations and longevity of both Sheringham Shoal and Dudgeon wind farms. We'd like to thank North Norfolk District Council, the Walsingham Estate, Wells Harbour and all local businesses and stakeholders for many happy years here and look forward to joining our colleagues in Great Yarmouth, as we strengthen our operating model within the Greater Wash."
The 317MW Sheringham Shoal offshore wind farm which became operational in 2012 was the Equinor's first major scale offshore wind investment. The Dudgeon wind farm, which followed in 2017, has a capacity of 402MW and is Equinor's largest operational wind farm. It was the first offshore wind farm in the UK to use a Service Operations Vessel for its operations, now the status-quo for large scale UK wind farms.
The two extension projects, which are being brought forward as one project to minimise disruption in the community, have completed both the first and second community consultations, and using the feedback gained Equinor is now refining plans ahead of submitting the Development Consent Order later this year. At its recent Capital Markets Update, Equinor reaffirmed its commitment to accelerate profitable growth in renewables, and brought forward its target to increase its renewables capacity to 12 - 16GW (equity share) by five years, to 2030.
Globally, the company expects focussed future growth through regional clusters, including the North Sea, US East Coast and Baltic Sea, and is pursuing new offshore wind opportunities in Europe as well as in other regions such as Asia and the Americas. It is a leader in floating offshore wind utilising decades of skills and experience in offshore oil and gas.
With its partners SSE Renewables and Eni, Equinor is building the biggest offshore wind farm in the world, Dogger Bank, off the North East Coast of England. When complete in 2026 this project will be able to provide around 5% of the UK's electricity.