Offshore wind programme to generate 25GW

Offshore windfarms producing up to 25GW of energy are set to be developed by 2020 through a programme that aims to halve the length of the planning process.

The Crown Estate, which owns the seabed around the UK out to 12 nautical miles, announced potential sites before it opens official bidding to the wind energy industry later this year.

It is hoped the programme will speed up the delivery of windfarms by taking advantage of both The Crown’s Estate’s knowledge of the UK’s coasts and seas, and industry expertise.

Up to 50% of the cost of getting planning approval will also be met by the organisation in a bid to cut delays caused by red tape, but it will not own or operate the eventual windfarms.

This is the latest round of projects in The Crown Estate’s programme. Windfarms capable of generating 8GW are already in the pipeline after two previous rounds.

Rob Hastings, The Crown Estate’s director of marine estates, said the programme would help Government deliver on its share of the EU target of 20% renewable energy by 2020, and reduce the risk for developers.

“For the first time we will be investing directly in offshore windfarm development,” he said.

“We will be helping to identify suitable sites and working closely with commercial partners who we expect to make considerable capital investments in offshore windfarm assets.”

Maria McCaffery, BWEA chief executive, said: “BWEA has been calling for the approvals process to be reduced from an average of 8-9 years down to 5-6 years. This timetable is a very positive move forward.”

She added: “If the Government now acts to speed up the rest of the site assessment and approval process we are confident that we can deliver on time.”

Regen SW, the south west sustainable development agency, welcomed the plans to include three sites around its coastline in the latest round of the programme, after the region missed out in the first two rounds.

Environmental campaigners from Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth praised the announcement but called on Government to do more to boost the use of renewable energy and abandon plans for new nuclear power stations.

Kate Martin

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