Whitby is key to windfarm plans

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A MAJOR player in the multi-billion pound windfarm industry is drawing up a plan as if it is to be based in the town.

The news was revealed at a meeting of Whitby Harbour Board a week last Thursday, as members were brought up to speed as developers look to secure the consents and finance to commence work from 2015/2016 onwards on construction of a £40 bilion offshore windfarm project off the coast of Whitby at Dogger Bank.

Whitby is the closest 24-hour port to the proposed site which is a large sandbank in a shallow area of the North Sea, making it ideally placed to supply it with support vessel operations and logistics.

Following the release of the government’s energy bill last year, although it has not given the financial certainty needed to realise investments, chairman of Whitby Harbour Board Mike Cockerill said the offshore wind sector now has some of the assurances it needs to move forward again with proposals for the Round 3 offshore wind farm sites including Dogger Bank which could provide 10% of the UK’s energy.

Independent harbour board member Edwin Black said one major client is taking its plans further adding Whitby has to be “ready as a port”.

“We’ve already had four visits of would-be operators coming to Whitby to see what it’s like,” he said,

“One is taking it further and proposing a management plan as if based on Whitby.”

Coun Cockerill said council officers are in contact with the “movers and shakers” in the offshore wind industry pushing the case for Whitby, which is closest to Dogger Bank at three hours steaming distance, and for Scarborough as a “back-up”.

He said: “At a local level the borough council and the harbour board continue to develop relationships with the industry and promote our ports’ infrastructure and services at every opportunity with a view to securing some of the operations and maintenance, servicing and supply activity which will be associated with the construction and on-going running of the windfarms.

“We are working with the developers, notably Forewind and Mainstream Renewables and their supply chain to ensure we can react to industry requirements if and when they come forward.

“We are now undertaking port survey and feasibility work with the industry to fully assess the potential for our ports and infrastructure.”

Coun Cockerill added the offshore wind industry itself is still unsure how exactly the maintenance of far shore sites such as Dogger Bank will be delivered such as accomodation platforms, accomodation vessels, helicopter crew transfer, boat crew transfer and service vessel specifications.

And he said with the delays already encountered, it is not envisaged that any significant offshore wind activity will be undertaken from Whitby port prior to 2015, though there may be some need for infrastructure investment prior to that time, should the port be identified as a key operations and maintenance base.