Developers will be able to bid for new sites to generate enough offshore wind to power more than six million homes as the Crown Estate launches a new round of leases.
The leasing round for offshore wind sites is the first for a decade and has identified four new areas where projects can be built in the coming decades, in the North Sea, the south east coast and the Irish Sea off Wales and England.
It will open up the potential for at least 7 gigawatts of renewable electricity – more than twice the capacity of the new Hinkley Point C nuclear power station.
The move comes ahead of an expected announcement from the Government on the latest auction for renewable energy schemes which will reveal the price that will be paid for electricity from new offshore wind power projects.
The tender process by the Crown Estate, which is responsible for awarding seabed rights for offshore renewable energy projects, will begin in October 2019 and run until autumn 2020.
It will include incentives for technological innovation and developers will have the opportunity to propose hybrid projects which integrate offshore wind farms with other energy generators or interconnectors.
Projects will be drawn from at least three bidding areas, with a maximum of 3.5 gigawatts within any one area to help balance capacity from different areas, the Crown Estate said.
Huub den Rooijen, director of energy, minerals and infrastructure at the Crown Estate, said: “The UK is home to the world’s largest offshore wind market, attracting global investment, meeting UK electricity needs, and playing a crucial role in the transition to a net zero economy.”
The fourth major leasing round is “the next chapter in this remarkable transition”, he said.
“Round four projects will take the UK sector from strength to strength, delivering clean, affordable, home-grown electricity and joining a robust pipeline of projects in UK waters, which together will deliver a fourfold increase in operational offshore wind capacity by 2030.”
Industry body RenewableUK said the UK’s current capacity of 8.5 gigawatts of offshore wind provides more than 8% of annual electricity needs, while new projects already under way would increase capacity to at least 30 gigawatts – generating at least one third of the country’s power by 2030.
RenewableUK’s chief executive Hugh McNeal said: “It’s great to see the UK stepping up its ambition with a new round of offshore wind development now under way.
“This will engender further momentum in our world-leading offshore wind sector, securing billions of pounds in investment in new infrastructure.
“These powerhouses of the future will create thousands of highly skilled jobs, continuing the rapid regeneration of our coastal communities, as well as benefiting our UK-wide supply chain.”