Consents and planning applications have been submitted this week for the project which would see up to 270 turbines being built in the outer estuary, more than 20km offshore from the coasts of Kent and Essex.

Three companies – CORE Ltd, E.ON Renewables and Shell WindEnergy Ltd – have formed a consortium, called London Array Ltd, to finance the £1.5 billion development.

Up to 1,000MW of renewable electricity – enough for 750,000 homes – could be generated by the finished project, equivalent to 10% of the UK government’s 2010 renewables target.

London Array is the first of the Round 2 UK offshore wind farm projects to apply for consents after being awarded an option for a lease by the Crown Estate in December 2003. The consortium would need consent to be granted in 2006 for the project to be complete by 2010/11.

Graeme Sweeney, CEO of Shell Renewables said: “I am delighted that London Array is the first of the Round 2 UK offshore wind farms to submit its consent applications, setting a precedent for these larger projects.”

The project has also attracted the backing of environmental groups Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. Stephen Tindale, Executive Director of Greenpeace said the wind farm represented a “major step forward in harnessing the UK’s massive wind resource”, while Friends of the Earth director Tony Juniper said it was “exactly the sort of development that is urgently required to tackle the problem” of climate change.

The government is relying on offshore wind farms to meet its renewables targets as many onshore projects, such as the one planned for Whinash in the Lake District, are being blocked by local objections.

Jason Scagell, Director of E.ON UK Renewables said: “It’s only through building more powerful wind farm sites such as this that we’ll be able to reach the government’s tough targets for renewable generation. Last year we completed the construction of Scroby Sands off the coast of Great Yarmouth and we’re progressing further offshore developments around the coast of the UK.”

The UK is currently the world’s most attractive investment environment for renewable energy, according to Ernst & Young (see related story), but has been warned it will lose this top spot if finance for offshore projects fails.

By David Hopkins

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