The UK's largest offshore wind farm to date, the 630MW London Array project, may be expanded by 38%, if a proposal to build a further 240MW in capacity is approved by regulators.
As construction of the first phase nears completion – with full commissioning on track for next year – the developers of London Array have requested that a restriction on expansion be removed. If regulators agree, it would allow London Array to add detail to its plans to install 36-65 further turbines and to submit a permit application.
Concerns about potential impacts on a protected bird species, the red throated diver, are addressed in the request, says London Array. It may be that these were a key factor in the decision not to propose an expansion to 1GW, as had previously been indicated.
In drawing up its plans for a second phase, the three developers – Dong Energy, E.ON and Masdar – worked with influential NGO, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), and regulator, Natural England.
The potential for biodiversity impacts to derail offshore wind projects in the UK was illustrated earlier this year, when the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) refused Centrica's plans to build the 540MW Docking Shoal offshore wind farm. Cumulative impacts on a single bird species were the reason for Decc's decision.
"London Array believes the proposed scheme, which uses only part of the area available for phase 2, can maintain the integrity of the special protected area in which the wind farm sits and will not adversely affect the population of red throated divers," said project director, Richard Rigg.
Last week, London Array confirmed that all of the foundations and export cables have been installed for the 630MW first phase of the Thames estuary project.