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Bid to protect Norfolk windfarm with old car tyres

Old car tyres could be installed around the Scroby Sands windfarm’s towering turbines to ensure they are safe from erosion.

Eon, which owns and operates the 30-turbine windfarm off the coast of Great Yarmouth, wants to install tyre nets – large mats of old tyres tied together by rope – around the base of five turbines.

It is already being trialled on one of the turbines and is billed as an efficient, relatively low-cost way to protect the turbines and underground cables from destructive scouring.

Scouring happens naturally and is blamed on tidal currents and waves which ‘scour’ away the surrounding seabed, leaving holes that will only get bigger if nothing is done to protect the stability of the turbines’ bases.

While scour protection is commonly installed at offshore windfarms, Scroby Sands is the only place in the UK where tyre protection is being used.

The old tyres catch sediment around the turbine base to restore the erosion-ravaged seabed back to its normal level.

Eon has now applied to fit the tyre nets around a further five turbines as part of a trial scheme, and if proved successful the safeguard measures could be put in place around any of the other structures needing the protective buffers.

An Eon spokesman said seabed surveys had shown Scroby was suffering from areas of erosion, and without the protection the turbines could be at risk.

“If the scour process removed too much of the sea bed around the turbines there is a possibility they would be affected,” the spokesman added.

“The trial has moved from a flat mattress of tyres onto a large net filled with tyres, which are monitored on a regular basis. By carrying out regular surveys we can check the nets have not moved and are filling with sand naturally.”

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO), the body responsible for granting Eon a licence to install the tyres at the first turbine, said scouring can affect the “structural stability of the turbine foundations”, as well as the cables that carry the electricity to the mainland.

It will now be holding a public meeting about the plans to extend the trial.

An MMO spokesman said: “The decision-making process for marine licensing applications considers potential impacts on the environment and also consultation with a range of stakeholders, environment and conservation advisors and the public.

“Marine licences can include conditions, for example our approval of the trial project included a number of conditions to address potential impact of the installation of the tyres in the marine environment, including that the developers must recover any loose tyres identified.”

If the trail’s extension is granted the new tyres will be fitted at the end of September and beginning of October, with installation taking around a day per turbine depending on weather conditions.

The consultation on the application closes on September 30.The MMO said it aims to make a decision on the licence within 13 weeks.

■ Members of the public are invited to the meeting at the Old Hall Hotel, Caister, at 2.30pm on Wednesday.