How important is the North Sea coast to Britain's future energy requirements?
PUBLISHED: 10:36 20 December 2018
The term "energy coast" is increasingly being used to describe the British side of the southern North Sea between The Wash and the Thames Estuary.
It is already home to Britain’s most modern nuclear power station, the Pressurised Water Reactor at Sizewell B, and in future years could be home to Sizewell C which will dwarf it in size and power output.
There are also plans being drawn up for another huge new nuclear power plant at Bradwell, near Maldon in Essex which could be the first UK nuclear reactor owned and operated by a company with a majority Chinese stake.
The amount of electricity generated by East Anglian-based nuclear plants could increase from 1,200 Mw to 7,600 Mw over the next 10 years if both new nuclear plants are completed.
But that figure could be matched by the amount of electricity generated by offshore windfarms in the North Sea. There are already 10 in operation (although two are run as a single operation) stretching along the coast.
There are three further mega-windfarms in different stages of development – and an extension to one of the existing farms on the drawing board.
While there is no question that these farms do not provide clean energy, there is controversy about how that power is brought ashore.
There is currently major disruption to roads and farmland along the route of the first power cable from Bawdsey on the coast to Bramford, where it is connected to the National Grid.
And there are further controversies about proposals to build onshore electricity stations to convert the raw power into something useable.
The wind farms in the UK section of the southern North Sea (from the Wash to the Thames Estuary) are:
Lynn and Inner Dowsing: 54 turbines averaging five kilometres offshore near the Wash – producing up to 194 megawatts of electric power. It has been in operation since 2009.
Sheringham Shoal: 88 turbines averaging 17 kilometres off the North Norfolk coast – producing up to 317 megawatts of electric power. It has been in operation since 2012.
Scroby Sands: 30 turbines averaging 2.5 kilometres off the coast near Lowestoft – producing up to 60 megawatts of electric power. In operation since 2004.
Greater Gabbard: 140 turbines averaging 23 kilometres off the Suffolk/Essex coast – producing up to 504 megawatts of electric power. In operation since 2012. It has recently been joined by its sister windfarm, Galloper, which has 56 turbines producing 353 megawatts of power.
Gunfleet Sands: 50 turbines averaging seven kilometres off the coast at Clacton – producing up to 184 megawatts of electric power. In operation since 2010.
London Array: 175 turbines averaging 20 kilometres off the Essex coast – producing up to 630 megawatts of electric power. In operation since 2013.
Kentish Flats: 30 turbines 10 kilometres out in the Thames estuary producing up to 140 megawatts of electric power. In operation since 2005.
Thanet: 100 Turbines 11 kilometres off the North Kent coast – producing up to 300 megawatts of electric power. In operation since 2010.
Work is currently underway on developing the East Anglian Array, which will be larger than any of the existing wind farms. This will be developed about 43 kilometres off the coast – and the first of three proposed windfarms is now under way. Engineers are currently building a new cable to take the power to the National Grid from Bawdsey to Bramford in Suffolk.
East Anglia One will have 102 turbines developing 714 megawatts of power. East Anglia Three and Four are planned to the north of the original wind farm and could each produce 1,200 megawatts of power from 172 turbines.
That means the current windfarm capacity in the southern North Sea is 2,682 megawatts with the potential of a further 3,114 megawatts to come if the East Anglia Array is completed in future years.
The growth in the number of windfarms has led to the UK seeing an increasing proportion of its electricity coming from renewable sources – government figures show that in 2017 29.3% of our power came from renewables (wind, solar, hydro-electric etc) up from 24.6% the previous year.
Over the last decade the total amount of electricity used in the UK has fallen slightly after decades of increased usage – in 2017 it was back to the same level as 1995.