Crown Estate ‘Derogates’ Round 4 Offshore Wind Projects

The Crown Estate has completed its work on the Plan-Level Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) for the six projects selected in the UK Offshore Wind Leasing Round 4.

The six projects have the potential to deliver up to 8 GW of new offshore wind capacity. The bidders selected for the six Round 4 sites are RWEa consortium of BP and EnBWa joint venture between Total and GIG, and a joint venture between Cobra Instalaciones y Servicios and Flotation Energy.

Following the completion of work on the Round 4 Plan-Level HRA, a conclusion has been made that the possibility of an ‘Adverse Effect on Site Integrity’ (AEOSI) as a result of the Round 4 plan cannot be ruled out for two of the protected sites forming part of ‘the national site network’, The Crown Estate said.

These are the Flamborough & Filey Coast SPA, due to the potential impact on the kittiwake feature, and the Dogger Bank SAC, due to the likely impact on the sandbank feature of that site.

In light of this, The Crown Estate considered whether it should make use of ‘derogation’ – a process which enables plans or projects to progress if certain tests are met, while ensuring any environmental impacts are fully offset through environmental compensatory measures. This can include a range of actions including creating or restoring the same or similar habitat, or measures to reduce other environmental pressures on the affected habitats.

In considering whether to make use of the derogation process, The Crown Estate concluded tha there are no alternative solutions for delivering the nationally important objectives of the Round 4 plan; there are clear, imperative reasons of overriding public interest to proceed, including the urgent need to deliver clean, renewable energy in support of the UK Government’s ambition to deliver 50 GW of offshore wind by 2030 and to reach the legally binding net zero target by 2050; and environmental compensatory measures can be secured to fully offset the potential harm to the two sites and to ensure that the overall coherence of the national site network is protected.

This has resulted in The Crown Estate giving notice to the UK and Welsh governments of its intent to proceed with the Round 4 plan on the basis of a ‘derogation’, and to progress all six of the offshore wind projects which form the Round 4 plan to the final stage of the leasing process – the award of an Agreement of Lease – subject to any environmental impacts being fully offset through environmental compensatory measures.

The proposed derogation for Round 4 will now be considered by BEIS and the Welsh Government in line with the HRA process set out in law.

”As pressures on our marine environment increase, it’s imperative that we can find ways to deliver the clean power that is urgently needed to help combat the energy crisis and deliver greater energy security, while recognising the importance of protecting habitats and biodiversity offshore,” Olivia Thomas, Head of Marine Planning at The Crown Estate said.

”It’s therefore vital that any proposed developments are rigorously assessed to understand their impacts and that’s why we carefully followed the HRA process set out in the Habitats Regulations for the Round 4 plan. We are grateful for the valuable independent expertise provided by environmental and conservation organisations throughout the Round 4 HRA process.”

To ensure the process was conducted in an independent and informed way, The Crown Estate has consulted and engaged regularly with an Expert Working Group chaired by Professor Dickon Howell, the UK seabed manager said.

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Photo: Illustration; Photo source: RWE Renewables