UK offshore windfarms to get 2-gigawatt boost

UNITED KINGDOM - Offshore windfarm operators in the UK are being offered the chance to significantly expand current or planned windfarms.

The Crown Estate, which controls the seabed development rights for the country, has announced that it will extend offshore windfarms by up to 2 gigawatts (GW). The extension will allow for hundreds of more wind turbines to be deployed in UK waters and applies to Round 1 and Round 2 projects — the first wave of the government's offshore wind rollout. Suitable projects can be operational, under construction or awaiting planning.

The Crown Estate said that many projects from rounds 1 and 2 are already either operational or under development, but claimed there is an opportunity for the accelerated delivery of extension schemes that will bring about more wind capacity before Round 3 projects kick in. The Crown Estate announced in March that Round 3 had received 40 bids for the nine zones under offer, with bidders aiming to generate another 25,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2020.

Developers keen to extend round 1 and 2 projects are being asked to register initial interest before September 9, which will be followed by a detailed application process.

"Site extensions for rounds 1 and 2 provide a unique opportunity to build on the strengths of the UK offshore wind industry," said Rob Hastings, Director of Marine Estates at The Crown Estate. "In the years leading up to construction of the larger Round 3 projects, the extension of existing sites will provide the offshore wind supply chain with further confidence in a pipeline of construction projects. Site extensions can provide additional offshore wind generation capacity, which could be installed and in operation in a relatively short timescale — lending further support to government renewable energy targets. This announcement, combined with lease term extensions, shows the Crown Estate's commitment to driving the UK offshore wind energy industry forward and to creating a long-term sustainable energy source."

The move has been welcomed by the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA), which has recently been very critical of the government's inability to speed up the planning process for windfarms, claiming that the UK is set to miss the interim 2010 green energy targets.

Maria McCaffery, BWEA Chief Executive, said: "This most welcome announcement underpins confidence in the sector and shows commitment to further growth of offshore wind. The UK now leads the world in installed offshore capacity, and the technology is set to contribute significantly to the country's energy needs."

Round 1, launched in 2000, was seen as the "demonstration" round for companies to get to grips with wind power. Of the 17 projects allocated, seven are now fully operational, and four are under construction. Round 2's competitive tender process began in 2003 with 15 projects given the green light to create 7.2 GW of electricity. Round 3 projects under consideration will add up to 25 GW of new wind power generation.

For 2008, the amount of power generated in the UK from renewable sources rose to 5.5% of total electricity generation, an increase of 4.9% from 2007.


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