The time it will take to dig a huge cable trench across Norfolk for an offshore wind farm has been slashed.
The energy firm behind what will be the biggest offshore wind farm in the world if built said today it had changed some its plans after feedback.
Digging a 55km long cable corridor for the Hornsea Three wind farm, from Weybourne in north Norfolk to south of Norwich, has sparked widespread concerns about the impact on the rural landscape, disruption from construction traffic and damage to wildlife.
Danish energy firm Orsted initially said the construction work could take 11 years, but said today that has now been reduced to eight years.
It has also finalised the route of the 80 metre wide cable corridor, which will take power from Weybourne to a new substation at Swardeston south of Norwich.
Orsted also said it had decided on a location for a controversial relay station it may need to build in the countryside between the villages of Corpusty and Edgefield, which could be 12.5 metres tall.
The relay station will be built if Orsted chose to transmit the electricity to the National Grid via Alternating Current (AC).
Under a second option called Direct Current (DC) no relay stations would be needed. But Orsted will not decide whether to use DC or AC until after it has got planning permission.
Friends of North Norfolk have called for the company to only use the DC option and not build a relay station.
And Weybourne Parish Council, where the wind farm cables make landfall, responded to Orsted’s consultation with “serious concerns” about the construction work.
But Stuart Livesey, from Orsted, said: “We’re delighted that we’ve been able to incorporate so much of the feedback received into the final design. The views of local communities and stakeholders are of great importance to us, and we have taken these into account to reduce or remove areas of concern.”
The wind farm will be built 120km off the north Norfolk coast at the same time as two other wind farms called Vanguard and Boreas, planned by energy company Vattenfall, are also being constructed.
The Vattenfall wind farms will also need a large cable corridor to be dug across the Norfolk countryside and may need a relay station too.
Mr Livesey added: “Hornsea Project Three is a much-needed infrastructure project that could supply clean energy to well over two million homes in the UK.
“Due to the scale of the project we had initially prepared to construct the project in three phases, however I am really pleased to say that we have taken on board the feedback and been able to reduce this to two phases.”
Orsted hopes to submit a planning application this year to the Planning Inspectorate. If successful construction is expected to start in 2020.