Massive seabed auction could double UK’s offshore wind power
The first major auction for offshore wind farm space in a decade has been launched by the UK government with the potential to create 7GW of energy facilities.
If fully used this would nearly double offshore power output in the UK and represents more than two times the amount of energy that will be generated by the upcoming Hinkley Point C nuclear plant.
The tender process will take place over the next year and will encourage developers to include the latest technical innovations in their projects while ensuring geographically dispersed facilities in order to balance capacity across the country.
The UK currently has more offshore wind power installed than any other country and the cost to build new farms has fallen to record lows in recent years.
The latest round, which is being launched by The Crown Estate, a body that acts as manager of the seabed around the UK, focuses on water depths out to 60 metres which are suitable for fixed foundation technology.
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 first seabed rights could be awarded in early 2021, The Crown Estate said. Its last major licensing round for offshore wind took place a decade ago, with winners including Britain's SSE and Norway’s Statkraft announced in early 2010.
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 per cent 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.”
In March the energy minister at the time Claire Perry said that offshore wind will account for more than 30 per cent of British electricity supply by 2030.
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