Three developers working on five projects off the coasts of Kent, Suffolk, Cumbria and Merseyside are to be allowed to extend their sites, while developers of two projects in the Greater Wash on England's east coast will be able to add extra turbines totalling 340MW within their project boundaries.
The aim of this round of extensions is to provide a stable flow of construction projects to sustain the offshore wind supply chain in advance of Crown Estate's bigger Round 3.
Developers will need to lodge a new planning application for each of the extensions, including an environmental impact assessment and consultation. Once government consent has been secured, the Crown Estate will grant a lease to allow construction to start.
Danish energy company Dong came away with the highest share of the new capacity, with two extensions totalling 984MW to its operational Burbo Bank wind farm and its Walney project, which are both in the Irish Sea. Sweden's Vattenfall secured 198MW, with extensions to projects off the coast of Kent - the operational Kentish Flats wind farm and its Thanet project, currently under construction.
The remaining extension goes to a joint venture of SSE and RWE, allowing them to double the size of their 504MW Greater Gabbard project, which is being built off the coast of Suffolk. The extension, to be known as the Galloper wind farm, already has a connection agreement with National Grid.
The Crown Estate is also to amend existing agreements with Centrica Energy and Warwick Energy, allowing them to increase the size of their projects within the agreed project areas; both projects are awaiting planning consent.
The Crown Estate stresses it expects projects to be completed within a tight time frame. Construction is expected to begin in 2014 with completion by the end of 2016. The extensions will benefit from sharing construction crews, vessels, ports and onshore facilities with the original projects, it says.
The timetable presupposes minimal delays to the consenting and grid connection regimes. However, the industry is waiting to find out whether the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government will retain the newly created Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), which has been set up to decide projects of national importance, including large wind farms.
Before the election, both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats pledged to abolish the IPC. Nick Medic, spokesman for trade body RenewableUK (formerly the British Wind Energy Association), does not believe that abolishing the IPC will lengthen decision times, although it might affect investor confidence. "We already have a successful framework for offshore consents," he says. "Whether decisions within that framework are carried out by the IPC or the secretary of state (as they have been up until this year) is unlikely to make much difference."
Peter Madigan, RenewableUK's head of offshore renewables, says that the level of interest in the extensions provides emphatic evidence of offshore wind viability and growth. "The projects are proven to deliver, so it makes sense to scale them up," he says.
Rob Hastings, the Crown Estate's director of the marine estate, says that the 2GW of extensions has been driven by developer interest and will increase the total potential 2020 installed capacity to 48GW.