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Sheringham Shoal takes shape

Nigel Tompkins
Scira local representative

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As the Sheringham Shoal offshore wind farm continues to take shape off the North Norfolk coast, work behind the scenes to establish the long-term base for operator Scira Offshore Energy is also well underway.

Offshore, 2011 has been a productive year, with the placement of the two 1000 tonne substations by 183m crane vessel Oleg Strashnov in May, the arrival of the first wind turbines in July and the completion of 90 foundations in August.

Electricity generation also began in August, when the first turbine was commissioned. From the North Norfolk coastline, residents and visitors can watch the gradual arrival of the wind turbines as they are placed atop the remaining yellow transition pieces. Into 2012, GMS Endeavour, a 76m self-propelled jack-up vessel, will continue to position the turbines, with completion scheduled for the middle of the year.

The team onboard the 76m Smit Constructor completed preparations for the infield cable installation in autumn, while the 86m Team Oman is now finalising the installation of the cables joining the strings of turbines to the offshore substations.

In this most intensive work phase, Wells Harbour has been kept busy with up to 15 crew transfer vessels operating in and out of the outer harbour. At its peak, more than 650 people were working offshore, with many of them starting, or completing, their shifts at Wells.

In the town itself, Scira's information point in Staithe Street has welcomed hundreds of interested visitors, while the Scira team outgrew its first office there and moved, together with the construction team and offshore contractors, to a temporary location in Polka Road, the former Wells Field Study Centre.

The organisation has a lease here until February 2013, by which time they will have a brand new permanent base to move into. In mid-2011, planning consent was granted by North Norfolk District Council for the construction of a purpose- designed administrative base and warehousing in Egmere, two miles south of Wells. A contractor for the construction of the base was selected with the assistance of its designers, Norwich-based architects LSI, and work is due to start shortly with expected completion in mid- 2012.

It will be to here that wind turbine technicians will go each day to change for their offshore duties before being transported by minibus to the outer harbour, where they will board one of the three crew transfer vessels that will be permanently based there.

With most of the current focus on the offshore construction, it is easy to forget that in the long term the wind farm will be operated and maintained by a core team of 50 people. Scira Offshore Energy, with help from contractor Siemens, will gradually take over the day-to-day management and safe, efficient running of the project.

With its vision of 'energised people transforming wind energy', Scira comprises 13 people - three seconded from Norway and the rest recruited primarily from Norfolk - with roles in finance; health, safety and environment; human resources and communications; operations and maintenance, and production and technology. The bulk of the remaining locally based employees will be wind turbine technicians working for Siemens under contract to Scira. To date 24 newly recruited technicians have completed the intensive training required to work at height in rough offshore conditions, and are working on site.

Post-construction, the organisation will focus on its mission to become a reliable provider of green energy to the UK market and on playing an ongoing role as part of the local community.

For more information please visit the website: www.scira.co.uk.

An installed transistion piece
The Svanen
Vanguard guard/support vessel
Outer Harbour