Extensions to operational wind farms have proven to be a successful way of efficiently developing more offshore generating capacity.
In February 2017 The Crown Estate launched an opportunity for existing wind farms to apply for project extensions. This opportunity closed in May 2018, with eight project applications received, all of which met our specified application criteria.
Since then, The Crown Estate has undertaken a plan level Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA), to assess the possible impact of the proposed windfarm extensions on relevant nature conservation sites of European importance. Throughout the assessment process, The Crown Estate was supported by expert independent advisors, and consulted with the statutory marine planning authorities, the statutory nature conservation bodies and a number of non-governmental stakeholders.
In August 2019, The Crown Estate announced the conclusion of the HRA, confirming that seven of the 2017 extension application projects, representing a total generating capacity of 2.85GW, would progress to the award of development rights.
These projects are:
- Sheringham Shoal offshore wind farm
- Dudgeon offshore wind farm
- Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm
- Galloper offshore wind farm
- Rampion offshore wind farm
- Gwynt y Môr offshore wind farm
- Thanet offshore wind farm
A map of the sites is available here.
The Crown Estate has published its Appropriate Assessment, which includes an overview of the HRA methodology, on the Marine Data Exchange, along with the technical report which informed it (known as The Report to Inform the Appropriate Assessment).
The developers of the seven extension projects listed above will progress the wind farm development with environmental assessments and surveys before seeking planning consent for their projects through the statutory planning process.
The Crown Estate also received an application for Race Bank extension project. The majority of the site for this proposed extension sits within the Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Based on the best available evidence, the plan level HRA determined that it would not be possible to rule out an adverse effect on the integrity of the SAC. The Race Bank extension project will therefore not progress to the award of leasing rights as part of the 2017 extensions round.
In such a scenario, there is an option to consider pursuing a derogation case under the Habitats Regulations. As a first for the offshore wind sector, this would be a significant undertaking, in conjunction with a broad range of stakeholders, and would cause a delay to the award of rights for the seven other proposed extension projects. We have therefore taken the decision not to pursue this route at this time. We will continue to work with the developers of Race Bank extension and with stakeholders, to consider next steps.
The Crown Estate will build on the work undertaken as part of the HRA for 2017 extensions to help inform planning for future leasing. At this stage, we remain open to all available options under the Habitats Regulations for Round 4, including pursuing a derogation, where appropriate. Further information on the Round 4 HRA approach will be provided at the time of launch, through the Information Memorandum.