London, UK [RenewableEnergyWorld.com] The Crown Estate, which controls the seabed in UK territorial waters, has launched round three of its leasing program and is to share development risks for prospective offshore wind projects. With the proposals to provide up to 25 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity installed by 2020, The Crown Estate is planning to invest up to 50% of the cost of obtaining planning consents, including enabling projects to address generic, zone-wide environmental concerns, consenting bottlenecks, supply chain constraints and connection of new wind farms to the national grid.
This latest addition follows some 8 GW of capacity that could emerge from the first two rounds of seabed leases. The program for round three is expected to accelerate the development of offshore windfarms, with The Crown Estate inviting potential partners to bid for development zones shortly, which will grant them exclusive development rights.
The Crown Estate is not planning to take any role in the ownership or operation of the projects and partner companies will remain wholly responsible for construction and operation of the windfarms. The specified zones are to be identified through both spatial planning by The Crown Estate and the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) being undertaken by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR). The Crown Estate has initially identified 11 zones that it expects to allocate during the summer of next year before identifying specific sites within the zones.
By 2013 individual sites will start to receive planning permission, with the first phases of the new wind farms becoming operational in 2015. The first phases of the new round three wind farms are expected to start operating in 2015.
“The new approach to the deployment of offshore wind requires us take an important facilitating role in which we will share developer’s risk. For the first time we will be investing directly in offshore windfarm development,” said Rob Hastings, The Crown Estate’s Director of Marine Estates.
In a statement welcoming the move, research company NaREC said that in order to reach 2020 targets, 5,000 turbines could potentially need to be installed around the UK and the challenge lies in developing a smooth, cost effective and efficient deployment process for the large-scale manufacture, assembly, transportation, installation and maintenance of these turbines.
“This is a positive step towards meeting EU and government targets to increase output from renewable resources over the coming years. We also welcome the fact that the government has stated that it intends to look at removing possible barriers to development, such as grid access and infrastructure issues, as it is hugely important that potential developers are fully confident in being able to commit significant levels of investment to deliver these projects,” said Andrew Jamieson, Regulation and Markets Director for ScottishPower Renewables.