The Crown Estate is taking steps to enable the generation of up to an additional 4GW of green electricity from several offshore wind farm projects in development, within the timeframe of the Government’s offshore wind target of 50GW by 2030. This follows requests from the developers of seven offshore wind farm projects who believe additional capacity can be generated from the areas of the seabed they hold existing rights for.
The process announced today supports The Crown Estate’s ambition to use its position as manager of the seabed around England, Wales and Northern Ireland to catalyse the UK's energy transition, restore a thriving marine environment and support growth for communities, industry and the country.
The move recognises that since awarding seabed rights to these projects, offshore wind technology has improved, enabling more clean energy to be generated from the same seabed area. In considering the requests, The Crown Estate will balance the economic and clean energy potential of these projects with its commitments to nature and biodiversity and duty to make the most effective and efficient use of a valuable, but increasingly busy, seabed. Any decision taken will be subject to a ‘Plan-Level Habitats Regulations Assessment’ (HRA) to understand the collective environmental impact of the additional capacity across all seven projects. This will include consultation with relevant stakeholders, including Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies (SNCBs) and regulators.
Gus Jaspert, Managing Director, Marine, at The Crown Estate, said: “As demands on the seabed intensify, we’re taking a more strategic, holistic and data-led approach than ever before to ensure we make the most of this vital resource and that each area of the seabed we lease is working as hard as it can to contribute to the needs of our country and nature.
“These proposed capacity increases make use of seabed areas that have been previously granted rights, are not being fully utilised, and may have limited options for alternative uses. We are therefore pleased to launch a process to examine whether this additional capacity can be made available in a way which remains true to our commitment to nature and biodiversity.”
Dan McGrail, Chief Executive of RenewableUK, said: "Maximising the amount of offshore wind capacity we can install in areas where leasing agreements are already in place is vital to get us closer to the Government's target of 50GW by 2030. Utilising these areas of seabed to the full could add up to 4GW, which is more than a quarter of the UK's current offshore wind capacity, representing a significant step forward. Accelerating deployment in this way would make projects even more cost-effective through economies of scale, which is good news for consumers as well as creating further opportunities for us to grow our supply chain.
"The industry is working closely with other seabed users and nature conservation bodies to ensure that we continue to develop projects in an environmentally sensitive way which protects and enhances the UK's rich marine biodiversity. Rapid improvements in offshore wind technology since these leases were awarded mean that the time is now right to reassess carefully how we can make the most of our main source of renewable power in the years ahead".
The Crown Estate has worked closely with government to define an assessment process which balances the needs of the industry with the needs of nature and the marine environment, and which proceeds at pace, with the aim of seeking a determination of additional capacity within 12 months, subject to regulated planning processes. The process will include consideration of environmental factors and other activities taking place or planned in the increasingly busy and complex marine environment, to ensure that opportunities are aligned, treated consistently and provide confidence in the additional capacity available to developers as soon as possible.
The projects under consideration, and included in this process, were awarded rights in either The Crown Estate’s Offshore Wind Leasing Round 3, or The Crown Estate’s 2017 Offshore Wind Extensions opportunity, the latter of which sought to unlock additional capacity in the UK offshore wind portfolio in an efficient way, by extending existing offshore wind farms. They are:
Awel y Môr
Sheringham Shoal Extension
Dogger Bank D
The UK is now the second largest offshore wind market in the world, generating 24% of the global offshore wind capacity, and currently delivering 14% of the UKs total electricity requirements.
The Crown Estate has catalysed the sustainable development of this market since its very beginnings, supporting the nation’s net zero ambitions and the growing need for energy security. This work continues through investing in - and sharing - world-class data and evidence, collaborating with a broad range of stakeholders to co-ordinate future opportunities, and delivering leasing opportunities in an evidence-led and timely way to meet market demand and policy ambitions.