Proposal for Tees Heliport to service £3.2bn Dogger Bank wind farm

Developers SSE and Norwegian energy giant Equinor have confirmed that Durham Tees Valley Airport could be considered as part of operation and maintenance plans for what will be the world’s largest offshore wind farm, if Ben Houchen’s plan for public ownership is approved this week.

Should the plans for the airport gain official approval at a meeting of the Tees Valley Combined Authority on Thursday (January 24), the joint venture between the two companies will likely require a heliport to support the transfer of people to and from the £3.2billion wind farm project – located more than 100 miles off the coast of Redcar.

The commitment to plan for public ownership of the airport will ensure that Durham Tees Valley Airport can be considered for use during their operation and maintenance activities.

Dogger Bank will be the world’s largest offshore wind project when fully developed, providing the UK with 4.8GW of clean, renewable power for decades.

This equates to around 10% of the UK’s total electricity requirements, and will be transported via underground, high-voltage cables to substations near Lackenby, Redcar.

3.6GW of the projects on Dogger Bank are being progressed by the Dogger Bank Wind Farms joint venture between SSE and Equinor.

Dogger Bank Wind Farm’s plans will see engineers and support staff mobilised directly from the Heliport at Durham Tees Valley during both the construction and operational phases of the project.

Equinor say the plans for public ownership of Durham Tees Valley Airport will ensure that the airport is favourably considered above other sites across the region.

Mayor Houchen and his officials have been working with Dogger Bank Wind Farms since 2017 to identify a suitable location in the area for their proposed ops/maintenance base, and to ensure that Durham Tees Valley Airport is considered in the mix.

The Equinor-SSE joint venture has also invited the mayor to address a conference in Newcastle on January 30, which is seeking to promote innovation in support of offshore wind operations, where he will pitch for further investment opportunities at the airport.

Senior representatives from some of the offshore wind industry’s leading players will be present to hear the mayor’s pitch on why they should consider basing themselves at Durham Tees Valley Airport.

Halfdan Brustad, vice president of Equinor, said: “We welcome the proposal for Durham Tees Valley Airport as proposed by mayor Ben Houchen.

“Equinor, alongside our joint venture partner SSE, have been integral to the Offshore Wind Industry Council’s work on development of a Sector Deal for Offshore Wind.

“This deal will support the growth of a number of offshore wind supply chain clusters including in the North East.

“The development of the Dogger Bank Wind Farms is expected to offer a range of opportunities for companies in the North East cluster.

“The mayor’s plans for Durham Tees Valley Airport provide a positive step in the development of this cluster, which will in turn provide opportunities for significant numbers of jobs and economic development in the area.”

Houchen said: “Thanks to this announcement from Equinor and SSE, we have ensured that our airport can offer a competitive bid for future support to the huge £3.2billion Dogger Bank Wind Farm project – but only if my plan for public ownership is approved later this week.

“The Tees Valley has one of the UK’s greatest concentrations of companies operating in the offshore oil and gas, subsea, decommissioning and offshore wind sectors.

“The supply chain alone is made up of over 400 direct and 3,000 indirect companies that employ over 4,250 people.

“With today’s huge announcement from Equinor and SSE, that figure has the potential to grow substantially.

“I have always said that my plan to save our airport isn’t just about flights to Costa del Sol, we need to also attract commercial investors like Equinor and SSE to get our airport back into profit.

“I’m delighted these two huge companies are willing to put their faith in our airport.

“Our success as a region depends on our ability to work, trade and collaborate with old friends and new allies around the world.

“That means we have to be as accessible, visible, competitive and pro-active as possible.

“Securing the future of our airport – a vital strategic asset right on our doorstep – will give airlines, existing businesses and future investors like Equinor and SSE the confidence and certainty they need to put their faith in our area.

“They’re backing my plan, and I hope many others do as well.”

Wilton Engineering chief executive Bill Scott OBE added: “The huge positive impact of Equinor setting up on the airport is an absolute massive tick in the box for the businesses and employees, not just within the Tees Valley but for the wider North East economy.

“It also gives traction to the Government’s Offshore Wind Sector Deal in supporting localised clusters which create specialist areas around the UK, thus enhancing UK content.”

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