A second round of bids from turbine manufacturers hoping to supply the Dudgeon project are being analysed by developer, Warwick Energy. The company has also been on the receiving end of "strong interest" from companies wishing to buy the project, planned for waters off England’s Norfolk coast.
"We have had revised bids from turbine suppliers and I’m pleased to say that prices have come down," Dudgeon project director, Mark Petterson, told Windpower Offshore. A final analysis of the project design is underway, the results of which will inform Warwick’s choice.
Warwick has not set itself a deadline for making the turbine purchase decision, although Petterson’s preference would be to agree terms with a supplier soon. A deal regarding the supply of foundations will follow a decision on turbines.
Sale of the Dudgeon project is also on Warwick Energy’s agenda. The company developed both the Barrow and Thanet projects, selling the former at the pre-construction stage, once all consents had been received and all major contracts signed.
With Thanet, Warwick remained involved during the early stages of construction, on a project management basis, until Vattenfall purchased the wind farm.
Warwick’s strategy for Dudgeon is to "get it to a safe place" in terms of permitting and contracting, explained Petterson. Once the project is ready to be built, Warwick will likely sell its full stake, although it would be open to the option of retaining a minority share.
"A large number of industry players have approached us to discuss Dudgeon," acknowledged Petterson, adding that interest has come from companies already active in the UK offshore wind sector, as well as those seeking to enter the market for the first time.
"Interest is strong, although financing these projects is a serious challenge," said Petterson.
Public resistance to the construction of onshore electricity transmission infrastructure for Dudgeon has been a significant issue for Warwick, and one the company has been determined to confront openly.
Warwick’s proposal to build an onshore substation at Little Dunham was rejected by local authorities, prompting the developer to contest the decision. A public enquiry about the suitability of the Little Dunham site is scheduled for 6 November, although Warwick recently received permission to construct an onshore substation at an alternative site, near Necton.
The company has three reasons for seeking to overturn the authorities’ decision about the originally proposed substation location, explained Petterson. First, there remains the possibility that approval of the second site will be successfully appealed by those opposed to the alternative site. "We can’t be blind to the fact that an appeal is possible," he said. Secondly, Little Dunham is a slightly better site, which would be easier to screen from view.
In addition, Warwick believes that it must challenge poor decision-making by permitting authorities for the sake of the UK offshore wind industry. "We can’t have people objecting to perfectly well-designed substations for no sound reason," said Petterson, adding that future offshore wind projects will depend on properly considered permitting decisions.
Recently, Warwick announced it will create a £100,000 (€120,000) per year community fund to support Norfolk-based organisations once Dudgeon is operational. This chimes well with the UK government’s emphasis on the need for wind energy projects to provide tangible benefits to local communities.