Rural Norfolk has some of the slowest broadband speeds in the UK. Last year, Better Broadband for East Ruston (BB4ER) approached Vattenfall , developer of the Norfolk Vanguard and Norfolk Boreas offshore wind farms, to ask whether Vattenfall could assist in improving broadband speeds. This could be secured by running broadband services along the same route of onshore infrastructure needed to connect the wind farms to the National Grid.
Ruari Lean, Vattenfall’s Project Manager for the Norfolk Vanguard offshore wind farm said: “We were pleased to be approached last year by BB4ER to discuss broadband opportunities. We’ll keep exploring with BB4ER, hopefully something can be done to support rural communities and businesses in Norfolk with faster broadband speeds.”
Formed in January 2017, BB4ER aims to provide the East Ruston area with the fastest rural Fibre-to-the-Home broadband connections at an affordable price. Built and operated by the community for the community as a not-for-profit utility, this will go some way to bridging the gap between broadband speeds in urban and rural areas.
Lesley Marsden, a volunteer with BB4ER, said: “We’re delighted that Vattenfall have responded to our approach so positively and recognise the broadband problems existing in North Norfolk. We now have a memorandum of understanding in place to continue talking and working with Vattenfall to assess our ideas.”
“We are proposing to model our Community project on that successfully implemented by Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN) in Lancashire. BB4ER group members have visited parishes in Lancashire benefiting from the B4RN service, spoken to people involved in providing and taking advantage of it and have received their training. BB4ER volunteers are key members of the B4RN East Anglia management team and have been involved in getting the first B4RN East Anglia service connected.”
Vattenfall also pointed out that if discussions lead to concrete proposals they would be separate to obtaining consent for the offshore wind farms from the UK Government.
Vattenfall will submit final plans for Norfolk Vanguard to the Planning Inspectorate in June 2018. Norfolk Boreas, also 1.8GW, is following Norfolk Vanguard in the planning process.
When up and running in the mid-2020s, Norfolk Vanguard’s and Norfolk Boreas’s 3.6GW of combined generating capacity will produce enough fossil-free power every year to meet the equivalent annual electricity demand today of 2.6 million UK households, almost 10% of UK household demand.