The Crown Estate has set out plans to generate an additional four gigawatts from seven wind farms under development offshore England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The projects which could benefit from increased capacity include Dogger Bank off the coast of Yorkshire, which is set to be the world’s biggest offshore wind farm once completed.
The plans follow requests from the developers of the wind projects, who believe additional capacity can be generated from the areas of the seabed they hold existing rights for.
Improved offshore wind technology
In a statement, The Crown Estate said the move recognises that since awarding seabed rights to the seven projects, offshore wind technology has improved, enabling more clean energy to be generated from the same seabed area.
The Crown Estate said it will “balance the economic and clean energy potential of these projects with its commitments to nature and biodiversity and duty to make the most effective and efficient use of a valuable, but increasingly busy, seabed”.
The Crown Estate managing director for marine Gus Jaspert said the proposed capacity increases will make use of seabed areas that have been previously granted rights, are not being fully utilised, and may have limited options for alternative uses.
“As demands on the seabed intensify, we’re taking a more strategic, holistic and data-led approach than ever before to ensure we make the most of this vital resource and that each area of the seabed we lease is working as hard as it can to contribute to the needs of our country and nature,” Mr Jaspert said.
Vital to achieve 50 GW goal
RenewableUK chief executive Dan McGrail said maximising offshore wind capacity in areas with existing leasing agreements is vital to reach the UK government’s target of 50GW by 2030.
“Utilising these areas of seabed to the full could add up to 4GW, which is more than a quarter of the UK’s current offshore wind capacity, representing a significant step forward,” Mr McGrail said.
“Accelerating deployment in this way would make projects even more cost-effective through economies of scale, which is good news for consumers as well as creating further opportunities for us to grow our supply chain.”
Mr McGrail said the industry is working closely with other seabed users and nature conservation bodies to ensure projects continue to be developed in an environmentally sensitive way which protects marine biodiversity.
“Rapid improvements in offshore wind technology since these leases were awarded mean that the time is now right to reassess carefully how we can make the most of our main source of renewable power in the years ahead,” he said.
Aim for 12 month approval process
The Crown Estate could approve additional capacity for the projects within 12 months, subject to regulated planning processes.
The projects under consideration for increased capacity include:
- Awel y Môr
- Dudgeon Extension
- Sheringham Shoal Extension
- North Falls
- Five Estuaries
- Rampion 2
- Dogger Bank D
The UK offshore wind market has grown rapidly in recent years, with the country now generating 24% of the global offshore wind capacity.
In total, offshore wind currently delivers 14% of the UK’s total electricity requirements.