Frequently asked questions

This page provides answers to questions that were asked during our consultation and are likely to be of interest to stakeholders and the wider local community. They will be regularly reviewed to ensure they are up to date and relevant.

Local involvement

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How will North Falls benefit the local economy?

This will be via high skilled local jobs (both direct and indirect), working with local suppliers, contractors and the whole supply chain and via training and skills initiatives with local schools and education institutions. There will be wider opportunities for community involvement during North Fall's development, construction and in to its operation. Annual business rates based on a rateable value will be paid to the local council for the life of the wind farm.

Will the energy be used locally?

It is not possible to say exactly who will use the electricity produced by North Falls as it will enter the national grid to be transmitted for use by homes, businesses and industries connected to the network.

How will you work with the local community?

During the development phase we will undertake consultation where we will gather feedback, input and ideas on our proposals, including on ways to engage with the community for the lifetime of the project. The information will be used during and post-consent to develop a detailed plan of how to most effectively work with the community in terms of initiatives with schools and other education facilities, community groups and charities. Community input will be sought to ensure it meets local needs and requirements.

Can local people invest in offshore wind farms?

At this stage it is not possible for individuals to invest in offshore wind farms other than through shareholdings with the owner companies listed on stock exchanges.

Planning process

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Will the decision to proceed with the project be decided locally or nationally?

As North Falls is an offshore wind energy development greater than 100MW it is classed as a nationally significant infrastructure project (NSIP) which means it will follow a six-step development consent order process managed by the Planning Inspectorate. The first step, lasting over a period of approximately three years, is pre-application, which is the key time for the local community, including local Government, to input into the plan. This is followed by acceptance, pre-examination and examination before the Planning Inspectorate prepares a report on the application, including a recommendation, and provides it to the relevant Secretary of State. They will then decide whether to grant or refuse development consent.

In summary the decision will be made nationally, though as part of the process there will of course be local input.

How will the local councils be involved in the selection of the of the landfall or cable route?

Councils located within, and neighbouring, the development area are statutory stakeholders and will be consulted throughout the pre-application process. The feedback and responses received will be taken into account when preparing the final application proposals.

What is the timescale for the project?

Broadly North Falls is anticipating receiving consent around 2025/26, and getting underway with construction relatively soon afterwards to be operational by the end of the decade therefore helping the UK Government meet its targets of 40GW offshore wind by 2030.

How will the landfall area be chosen?

The precise landfall location will be selected after the team has completed environmental and engineering assessments, considered consultation feedback and taken into account constraints including designated sites, nature reserves, land use, historic features and technical feasibility.

Grid connection

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Is North Falls part of the Offshore Transmission Network Review?

North Falls is supporting the Government’s Offshore Transmission Network Review which aims to deliver improvements in the way offshore wind generation connects to the onshore transmission network and to facilitate a more supportive approach for interconnectors (including multi-purpose interconnectors) and other offshore transmission. North Falls has volunteered to be a Pathfinder Project as part of this review and awaits the outcome of this ongoing process.

Why can’t the project connect into a different location?

The grid connection location is determined by National Grid and they have offered North Falls a connection referred to as East Anglia Coastal. Although the precise location is not yet finalised its likely to be on the Tendring Peninsula.

Why can’t you connect into one of the existing offshore wind farms?

North Falls is not able to connect in to any existing offshore wind farms, such as Greater Gabbard, as their substations and cables are designed and built to operate at the capacity of those windfarms. It would not be practical or feasible to upgrade them - technically, economically or from a regulatory perspective - hence a new connection is needed.

Local environment

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How do you ensure you don’t need to remove or damage ancient woodland or trees along the cable route or at the site of the substation?

The process to select the cable route and substation site involves first identifying ecological constraints through a series of comprehensive surveys that cover habitats and protected species. Buffer zones are then created around key ecological constraints, such as ancient woodland, and every effort is made to site the infrastructure outside these buffer zones. Proven construction methodologies, such as horizontal directional drilling (HDD), can be used to install cables far enough under the surface so as to not damage vegetation and to avoid features such as hedgerows and marshland.

How do you reduce the impact of an offshore wind farm on birds?

In designing the wind farm, one of our core objectives will be to minimise effects on the environment, including bird life. We are collecting and analysing years of ornithological data to understand which bird species fly through the offshore site and how they use the area at different times of year. There are a range of possible impacts, which differ depending on species and the seasons. A detailed assessment of potential impacts will be undertaken once the collected data has been analysed. From there, mitigation measures will be proposed to ensure bird populations remain viable once the wind farm is in operation.

How can you make the onshore substation the least intrusive as possible?

Guidance from the National Infrastructure Commission (published February 2020) sets out design principles for nationally significant infrastructure projects such as North Falls. These include the need to consider the cumulative impacts of other proposed substations and factors including substation orientation, fencing and associated landscaping and vegetation.

What impact will the location of the landfall have on the coast and local area?

There would be no permanent buildings at landfall and so after construction there would be no noticeable difference. However there would be temporary disruption as the cables are installed. A construction compound would be required near landfall for approximately two years however activity there would be intermittent. Mitigation measures such as adjusted working hours, use of low noise machinery and installation of acoustic barriers can all be used to keep disturbance to people and wildlife to a minimum. The main objective during construction will be to minimise disruption at the coast which will be done by employing a proven installation technique called horizontal directional drilling (HDD). By taking the cable deep under the site and out to sea, construction activity will avoid the Holland Haven Marshes Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and nature reserve.

Once construction at the landfall is complete, the land will be reinstated to its previous state.

How do you ensure the protection of local birds and wildlife?

As a first step, a comprehensive set of ecological surveys is undertaken across the proposed development area. The presence of any protected species or habitats is incorporated during the planning of the cable route and other onshore infrastructure. This could include, for example, ensuring buffers around woodland. Where constraints cannot be avoided, proven mitigation measures will be adopted such as: scheduling work outside sensitive periods, ecological supervision, use of low noise machinery and acoustic screening of sensitive areas.

By the time North Falls is due to be under construction, it is expected that there will be a legal requirement for nationally significant infrastructure projects to ensure a ‘biodiversity net gain’ as a result of their construction and operation. North Falls is already consulting with Natural England on what this could mean for the project and whether it could be through funding local nature conservation projects or creating and managing additional habitats.

The area is susceptible to erosion and flooding, how will you take that into account?

The North Falls Environmental Statement will include assessments on geology, ground conditions, hydrology and flood risk for each of the project’s construction, operation and decommissioning phases. This information will inform a Flood Risk Assessment (FRA) for the onshore infrastructure. The FRA will establish whether the onshore infrastructure may be affected by current or future flooding, whether it will increase the flood risk elsewhere and what mitigation can be implemented to reduce it.

Coastal erosion risk will be assessed as part of the project’s EIA, through the development of a conceptual model of local coastal processes. The electrical cables at the coast will be buried deep underground and the temporary construction compounds will be set back behind the Holland Haven Marshes SSSI, so there would be negligible risk of the works, or the presence of infrastructure, increasing erosion.

Would there be light pollution from the onshore substation?

Once operational, substations are unmanned and therefore are not lit unless maintenance work is required, which is generally carried out in daylight. During construction there may be some night-time lighting required in winter, managed by using directional lighting and setting brightness limits, as well as some focussed security lighting. All substation lighting would be overseen through Artificial Light Emissions Plans, which will set out ways to ensure local populations and nearby wildlife are not adversely affected.

Construction

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How does horizontal directional drilling impact ground-nesting birds and wildlife?

Horizontal directional drilling has a low environmental effect upon wildlife and birds, particularly when compared with alternative cable installation methodologies (such as open-cut trenching) as it avoids the need to remove or disturb habitats. Drilling underneath nesting sites is less disruptive and quieter than digging a trench closer to a nesting site. If a nesting site is located in a work location, the works can be undertaken outside of sensitive periods, or acoustic and visual barriers could be installed to minimise the impacts on affected species.

Will the sea wall promenade or the beach be closed during construction?

By utilising a cable installation technique that takes the cables underneath the beach, it is unlikely that either the beach or the sea wall promenade will need to close during construction. However there may be short periods of around 24 hours when access could be restricted due to specific activity that requires people to remain clear for safety reasons. For example if the cable installation vessel is close to shore and requires a clearance zone. The timing of any closures would be done in liaison with users of the local.

What is the process for the construction of the onshore infrastructure?

Although the overall construction of onshore infrastructure could take up to three years, activity would be intermittent across the landfall, cable route and substation sites throughout construction.
Starting at landfall, once the compound has been established there be a period of inactivity until the horizontal directional drilling takes place over a short time frame. There would be further waiting until the cables are delivered for installation through the ducts. Again this is a relatively short activity.
The cable installation would be completed sequentially. First the topsoil and subsoil is stripped and stored and the haul route constructed, the cable ducting installed and trenches, if employed, backfilled. The cables would then be pulled through the ducts before reinstatement of whole route including landfall. The sequential nature of the work means that potential disturbance would be localised as the work progresses along the cable route.
From experience of other projects, the most visible activity would be during the start of the process as the construction areas are being established and at the end during haul road removal through the movement of raw materials such as stone.
Construction of the substation follows a similar process; establishment of the site and its access, preparatory works for the installation and construction of the electrical equipment. Lastly the site would be landscaped and biodiversity enhancement works carried out.
Once construction has finished and the land along the cable route will be returned to its former use and other than the substation, there will be no above ground visible infrastructure.

What type of disruption could local residents expect near the landfall, along the cable route and near the substation?

Although the onshore infrastructure location will be designed to avoid as many constraints as possible (including houses, buildings and ecological and archaeological features) as this will be a construction project some disruption should be expected. This could be in the form of increased traffic, noise, artificial light and dust or mud. The project would however employ appropriate measures to minimise local disruption such as: limits on working hours, artificial light restrictions, noise specifications, limits on plant and machinery, and the use of water bowsers or road sweepers to clear mud and dust. Traffic Management Plans that need to be approved by the Council will specify requirements for example there may be a ban on construction traffic through certain areas.
North Falls will have a dedicated telephone number which can be used to contact the project should members of the public have any concerns.

Technical

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How long before a wind farm pays back the CO2 emissions produced and energy used during its lifecycle?

There have been many studies on payback time of both CO2 emissions and energy used during the lifecycle of turbines and of wind farms. The answer depends on a number of variables including type, size and number of turbines, energy used in fabrication of components, location of projects, nation’s energy mix and so on.
However selecting results from recent studies: according to the German Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt, UBA) wind power plants take between around three and 11 months to generate the amount of energy that was needed for their construction. Wind turbines operate for about 25 years and during this time, on average they generate 40 times more energy compared to the energy required for the production, operation and the disposal of a wind farm.
In terms of CO2 payback, studies by both Siemens Gamesa and Vestas have indicated that a wind turbine, by displacing generation from fossil-fuel power plants, needs to be in operation for less than 12 months to avoid as much carbon dioxide as would be released during in its lifecycle.

Why don’t you use an offshore ring main?

This is a solution that has been suggested by people not directly involved in the offshore wind industry and, while it appears sensible, there are technical, engineering, legal and policy restrictions that mean a 'ring main' is not feasible. Notwithstanding the technical and engineering issues, new rules and regulations would be needed, and there is no clarity on key questions such as who would build and maintain it, who would fund it, or where it would be located.

If unexploded ordnances are found before construction starts, how would you remove them?

If an unexploded ordnance (UXO) is identified on the offshore site or cable route, the priority would be to avoid it. If this is not possible, the UXO would need to be cleared. There are a number of ways to do this however the preference would be to use a quiet, low order technique, rather than a high order explosion where possible. As a responsible offshore developer North Falls would liaise with the relevant environmental and regulatory authorities to ensure the most secure and safe removal to protect the environment, marine life and human safety.

General

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Why put the wind farm here?

The Southern North Sea is an ideal location for offshore wind farms because it has an excellent wind resource, relatively shallow seas and is near to areas of high population, where the electricity generated is needed to power homes, businesses and support other energy dependent uses.

Could a mega ship (like the one in the Suez Canal) be blown into a wind farm it if was disabled?

The wind farm has been sited to avoid main shipping lanes, so if a vessel did lose power or hit a turbine, other vessel traffic could safely bypass it. Turbines are spaced wide apart, set out in navigation charts for vessels to avoid and sited away from close manoeuvring areas. Offshore wind farms have emergency action plans covering all type of incidents, including vessel accidents, and courses of action with multiple agencies such as the UK coast guard and shipping traffic controllers.

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