UK Launches 7GW+ Offshore Wind Leasing Round

The Crown Estate has launched Offshore Wind Leasing Round 4, opening up the potential for at least 7GW of new seabed rights for offshore wind development in the waters around England and Wales.

The Crown Estate, which acts as manager of the seabed around England, Wales and Northern Ireland, is making four broad areas of seabed available to the market, within which potential developers will have the opportunity to bid for project sites.

The Crown Estate’s Round 4 tender process will commence in October 2019 and run until autumn 2020.

It includes a three-stage tender process, evaluating both bidders’ capability and their proposed projects, before using option fees to determine award.

The round also includes incentives for technical innovation and options to propose hybrid projects, such as those which integrate offshore wind with interconnection or other energy generators.

Round 4 projects will come forward across at least three bidding areas, with a maximum of 3.5GW within any one area. The lease terms have been extended from 50 to 60 years, enough for two full project lifecycles.

Round 4 focuses on water depths out to 60 metres, which are suitable for fixed foundation technology, and will come forward in areas of favourable development resource, helping to enable cost-competitive deployment.

The lease agreements will require developers to collate and share project surveys and data, and participate in sector benchmarking schemes such as the System Performance and Reliability Trend Analysis project (known as SPARTA) – helping to build the evidence base in the sector, continue de-risking investment, and drive continued improvements in operational performance.

Available Seabed Bidding Areas

The Round 4 bidding areas are Dogger Bank, Eastern Regions, South East, and Northern Wales and Irish Sea.

Within these four areas, competent bidders will have the freedom to identify and propose their own project sites, supported and informed by the data and analysis The Crown Estate makes available.

Following project award, The Crown Estate will undertake a plan level Habits Regulations Assessment, to assess the possible impact of the proposed sites on the relevant nature conservation sites of European importance.

In total, the Round 4 tender process is expected to take approximately twelve months, followed by a Plan-Level HRA of an approximately equivalent period. Subject to the outcome of the HRA, new seabed rights could be awarded as early as 2021, with developers then progressing to seek planning consent for their own projects through the statutory planning process. Round 4 projects could become operational by the late 2020s.

In support of Round 4 leasing and beyond, The Crown Estate will invest in a programme of strategic enabling actions to help build high-quality data and evidence, to advance the understanding of offshore wind deployment and the impact on the marine and onshore environment, particularly around cumulative environmental impacts.

Projects awarded through Leasing Round 4 will join a robust pipeline of offshore wind in UK waters, with 9.3GW already operational and 4.4GW currently under construction. A further 20GW of projects are in the development pipeline (i.e. consented, in planning, or pre-planning).

Together with the 2.8GW of extensions projects, which passed the Habitats Regulations Assessment phase in August of this year, the UK is on track to deliver over 30GW by 2030.

“Round 4 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,” Huub den Rooijen, Director of Energy, Minerals and Infrastructure at the Crown Estate said.

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