Site selection and assessment of alternatives
The siting and refinement of the North Falls offshore and onshore project areas considered environmental, physical, technical, commercial and social aspects and opportunities, engineering needs and the feedback from early engagement with communities and stakeholders.
The process has been iterative with proposals informed by ongoing environmental studies, and influenced by multiple factors from different disciplines, including by public consultation at different stages of development.
This consultation provided the opportunity to influence what is proposed inside the project's red line boundary. There will also be future consultation with the communities near the substation site, specific to the substation design.
Should the project receive consent it will be subject to planning conditions, called requirements. These requirements will ensure the local authority and other key stakeholders are integral to the detailed design process.
In our 2022 consultation we explained the site selection process with the information still available to view here:View Site selection process
The majority of those who answered this question hoped to see an integrated offshore transmission network (a preference for North Falls' grid connection option 3), primarily to negate the need for substation(s) in Tendring, but also to potentially remove the need for the pylons related to the National Grid Norwich to Tilbury project. A number of responses referred to that project's pylons as a motivator for an offshore connection. There were also comments around use of brownfield sites and the need to accelerate to get the project to completion.
Consideration of other projects
Opportunities for co-ordination with other projects have been sought during the project design, particularly with Five Estuaries, a proposed extension to the existing Galloper Offshore Wind Farm. Like North Falls, Five Estuaries has been offered a connection to the national grid at a point opposite Lawford substation, near the village of Ardleigh. Due to the projects' proximity to each other and given stakeholder feedback noting a preference for collaboration, the projects have sought to co-ordinate on proposed onshore infrastructure where practicable, primarily for the onshore substation zone and onshore cable corridor. Both projects have committed to burying all their onshore electricity cables.
Further details about the site selection and how alternatives have been assessed can be found in the PEIR chapter:
Offshore site selection
The initial site selection was run by The Crown Estate as part of its process to award extensions to existing operational projects. Criteria included, for example, that extensions must share a boundary with the existing wind farm. As Greater Gabbard has two array areas separated by a shipping route, North Falls is similarly separated into two array areas. Additional constraints considered included: anchorage areas, military areas, existing cables and pipelines.
Offshore site selection has also included the proposed interconnector cable corridor between the northern and southern array areas and the offshore export cable corridor. North Falls followed key principles including selecting the most direct route to shore, and minimising impacts to designated sites, other users of the sea and navigation. Five cable corridor options were originally identified, and following consultation with marine and maritime stakeholders, a final offshore cable corridor is now proposed in the PEIR.
North Falls commissioned a study to identify suitable locations for landfall when it became clear that National Grid would offer a grid connection on Tendring Peninsula. With the results of this study and influence from the community as a result of the first two phases of consultation, the area between Frinton-on-Sea and Clacton-on-Sea was identified as the least constrained landfall location and taken forward for further assessment.
Onshore cable corridor
For the onshore cable corridor a series of initial 400m wide options were identified based on assumptions around the transmission infrastructure required for the project. Key high-level constraints were identified, with engineering, environmental, land and planning input sought to inform this initial site selection stage. To align with national policy and stakeholder feedback and with influence from the project's public consultation activity, North Falls began working more collaboratively with Five Estuaries on the underground onshore export cable infrastructure locations. A combined cable corridor study looked at the potential for a single onshore cable corridor option for both projects.
Within the North Falls PEIR, the area identified for assessment comprises a single combined cable corridor connecting the landfall search area to the onshore substation zone of up to 243m wide. This is still subject to ongoing refinement through data collection, engineering assessments and consultation.Download Onshore Cable Corridor Site Selection map
Other documents within the PEIR that are relevant to site selection and assessment can be found here:View Draft Report to Inform Appropriate Assessment (RIAA) View Habitats Regulations Assessment Screening Report (RIAA Appendix 1) View Habitats Regulations Assessment Draft In Principle Compensation Options View Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) Assessment Preliminary Stage 1 Assessment View Appendix 1 Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) Assessment Screening Report View Appendix 2 Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) Assessment Biotope Sensitivity Ranges View Appendix 3 Marine Conservation Zone Assessment (MCZ) In Principle Measures of Equivalent Environmental Benefit Review (MEEB)
The onshore grid connection location was decided via National Grid's Connection and Infrastructure Options Note (CION) process, which took place between March 2019 and April 2021. Having understood that the grid connection would be located in Tendring, Essex, this location has been used as the basis of the North Falls site selection process. In parallel, through the Offshore Transmission Network Review (OTNR) North Falls is also evaluating options for an offshore grid connection. Such an option would be provided by a third party and regulated by UK and EU law (see further details below).
Over the past two years, North Falls has sought to identify suitable options for the project's onshore substation to accommodate either North Falls alone or combined with Five Estuaries.
A broad 'area of search' was identified followed by a constraints mapping exercise to identify an initial 'long list' of potential options for the location of the onshore substation. Consultation with an expert topic group, supported by statutory bodies, was undertaken on the long list of options and the site selection process. Parcels of less constrained land were identified within the area of search, and further assessment undertaken to identify the preferred option: the onshore substation zone. This covers two potential sites capable of accommodating both North Falls and Five Estuaries.
Offshore Transmission Network Review
North Falls is participating in the ongoing Offshore Transmission Network Review (OTNR) which is addressing offshore transmission-related barriers to new offshore wind projects that are set to play a central role in the UK meeting its commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.
This review has brought together government departments and industrial bodies as well as key stakeholders involved in the delivery of offshore wind, interconnectors and offshore networks. It involves work to identify and bring forward any legislation or regulations needed to enable a more strategic approach and greater coordination around offshore grid connections.
There are currently numerous challenges related to whether North Falls could be offered a feasible and practicable offshore grid connection to replace the onshore grid connection in Tendring, North Essex in time to meet the 2030 ambitions. These challenges are beyond North Falls' control with examples including: need for new regulations around grid charging; revised rules related to the government's contract for difference auction to allow for joint bids, and the current offshore transmission owner (OFTO) obligations. Other challenges relate to how different projects are allowed to work together, for example, if one is required to make anticipatory investments to oversize their infrastructure so a later second project can benefit.
Through the OTNR, North Falls is engaged in technical, regulatory and programme discussions with the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem), the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero, third party transmission providers and others, to address these challenges.
However to maintain momentum and avoid the risk of project delays, North Falls will continue to progress with our onshore grid connection whilst assessing offshore grid connection options. By progressing both onshore and offshore grid connection options, and potentially including both in its application, North Falls aims to be in a position to be operational by 2030, therefore contributing to the UK targets for both offshore wind and net zero.
The connection options are detailed in the project description available under proposals on the dropdown menu above.
For more information on the Offshore Transmission Network Review visit:View Offshore Transmission Network Review
North Falls grid connection
As with all offshore wind farms, North Falls will require a grid connection point to export the power it generates to the national grid - the UK's high voltage electricity system. In 2019, North Falls specified what it needed in terms of a grid connection to the National Grid. The National Grid owns the national grid, and it is their responsibility to connect new sources of electricity to the grid, installing additional infrastructure at existing substation sites or constructing new substations as required.
North Falls has accepted an offer from the National Grid for a grid connection in Tendring Essex. Our engineering design, survey and planning work to date has been undertaken in relation to this grid connection and this consultation will seek your views on the outputs of that work.
In parallel, North Falls has committed to working with other projects in East Anglia to determine if there are opportunities to coordinate network designs. For the purposes of this consultation, we are eager to hear views on our current proposals based on the existing connection option in Tendring, Essex. It is possible that this will be the route the project takes forward in our application, so we encourage you to provide specific comments on the proposals in this consultation, rather than referring only to a preference for an alternative solution, which may not be feasible.