The SEA assessed the impact of offshore energy on the marine environment and other sea users. It confirms the government's plans for an additional 25 GW of wind, most of which will be located beyond the 12 nautical mile border. The Scottish and Northern Ireland administrations are currently undertaking SEAs within their territorial waters. "Offshore wind is fundamental to delivering our target of 15% of renewable energy by 2020," says energy minister Lord Hunt.
The SEA gives UK seabed owner The Crown Estate authority to proceed with its third auction of site leases for offshore wind development.
The Crown Estate, which owns most of the UK seabed, is offering all operators of offshore wind farms from the first two rounds of development extensions to their site leases for up to 50 years.
The offer comes after requests from operators for longer leases to allow a full operational period for their projects and opportunities for repowering the sites with new turbines.
Leases from the first round currently last only 22 years, with 40 years for round two sites of less than 500 MW. Larger projects already have 50 year leases. "This is an opportunity for our existing offshore wind operators to plan for the long-term future of their projects and to provide further confidence to the supply chain," says Rob Hastings from The Crown Estate.
Power has begun flowing from the first turbine to be completed at Rhyl Flats, the UK's eighth offshore wind farm. Twenty-five Siemens 3.6 MW turbines are being installed five miles off the north Wales coast. Work is still continuing on completing installation of the remaining 24 turbines and sub-sea cables; developer RWE npower renewables expects the 90 MW project to be fully commissioned by the end of the year. The eight wind farms so far amount to nearly 600 MW of capacity, which should reach more than 1.2 GW at the end of the year on completion of Rhyl Flats and two further projects.
Utility Vattenfall, Europe's fifth largest generator of electricity, has confirmed that German turbine manufacturer Repower is to supply the 150 MW British Ormonde project. Construction of the 30 turbines some 35 kilometres off Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, on England's north-west coast, is to begin in 2011. It will be built in water depths of between 17 and 30 metres. The deal, signed formally last month, represents Repower's first commercial offshore project in the UK and its largest offshore supply contract to date. It already has two deepwater demonstration turbines operating off the north of Scotland and six turbines in operation at Thornton Bank off Belgium. The nacelles and hubs are to be made at Repower's Bremerhaven facility in Germany and shipped to Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Northern Ireland, which is to be the main port serving the project. Vattenfall Wind Power's David Hodkinson says the UK government's extra support for offshore wind means it can go ahead with the project.