With up to 6 GW of offshore wind projects ready at the starting blocks, the UK government's launch last month of ambitious proposals for the next generation of offshore developments has the industry buzzing. In the second round of UK site leasing, seabed owner the Crown Estate is inviting 29 wind developers to bid projects for offshore sites in three strategic areas. The 29 registered their interest in the process in March. The areas are the outer Thames Estuary and the Greater Wash -- both off England's east coast -- and off the north-west coast. The first round of leasing in 2000 resulted in 17 proposals, each limited to 30 turbines. Of these, two are already being built, with the first to be commissioned before the end of the year. Round one is expected to result in some 1.5 GW of installed wind power. Round two is on an altogether larger scale with each wind farm comprising hundreds of turbines and producing between 3.5%-5.5% of UK electricity by 2010. The bidding process will be competitive, based not on financial bids but on the quality of business plans submitted. The aim, says the Crown Estate, is to award the best sites to developers most able to begin operations and help to meet the UK's targets of 10% of electricity from renewables by 2010. According to Frank Parrish from the Crown Estate: "Developers will be able to take options for more than one site and the size of their projects will be limited only by the [government's] guidelines and developers' ability to convince us that they can turn their plans into reality."
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