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United Kingdom

Will Round 3 lead to investment in the UK wind industry?

UK: Exclusive rights to develop wind farms in nine huge offshore zones around Britain have been granted that could lead to an additional 32 GW of offshore wind--the biggest single expansion of offshore wind energy in the world. The British government hailed the prospects for up to 64,000 wind turbines as creating a jobs bonanza and cementing the UK's leading position in global offshore wind.

Dogger Bank: UK wind farm could generate up to 10GW
Dogger Bank: UK wind farm could generate up to 10GW

The UK’s third round of offshore development aims to deliver 25% of total UK electricity by 2020. The Crown Estate, owner of most of the UK seabed, has awarded site licences to nine heavyweight companies or consortia for projects ranging in size from 9 GW to 0.6 GW. The licences entitle developers to conduct site surveys and to take the projects through the development and consenting phase. Developers will be working in partnership with the Crown Estate, which is investing £120 million in development and enabling activities across the round 3 programme.

The nine successful licensees were narrowed down from a shortlist of 18 companies under the competitive bidding programme. The large majority of players are foreign, mostly from mainland Europe, with German-owned companies making the strongest showing—either as sole developer in two zones or as a partner in development consortia for two  zones. British companies are involved with four zones.

Investment in UK offshore wind could total £75 billion and lead to 70,000 British jobs by 2020, claims UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown. "Our policies in support of offshore wind energy have already put us ahead of every other country in the world," he says. "The offshore wind industry is at the heart of the UK economy’s shift to low carbon." The government will now be working with developers and the Crown Estate to support the industry and remove barriers to rapid deployment, he adds.

The British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) is calling on the government to ensure that UK manufacturing secures a fair share of the jobs that are likely to be created by Round 3 deployment. Despite its global leadership in offshore wind, not a single turbine out of the 336 machines installed in British waters was built in the UK.

The BWEA wants to see the government set up coastal manufacturing and research hubs to attract inward investment to the UK. It envisages state of the art quayside facilities and manufacturing sites—similar to those created in Aberdeen for the offshore oil and gas industry and at Bremerhaven for the German offshore wind industry. "This will encourage wind energy manufacturing companies to locate in the UK and enable British businesses to take full advantage of the supply chain opportunities, for the benefit of jobs and the UK economy as well as Britain’s energy security," says BWEA Chief Executive Maria McCaffery.

Notable for its absence from Round 3 is Dong Energy of Denmark, one of the world’s leading offshore players. It was part of a consortium with E.ON and Fred Olsen Renewables which bid for "thousands of megawatts" but emerged empty-handed. A spokeswoman from Dong says its Round 3 bids were "very realistic" owing to the company’s hefty pipeline of projects already under development. Dong claims to be working on more offshore projects than any other single company. It adds that 2015, when some of the projects could begin generating, is still a long way off—suggesting that projects or part ownership of projects could change hands before then.

See the upcoming February edition of Windpower Monthly for an indepth version of this article.

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