United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Flood of seabed lease applications -- Start gun for British offshore

Approximately 20 prospective offshore wind plant developers have applied for leases for sites around the UK's coast. The Crown Estate--landowner of most of the UK territorial seabed--calls it a "tremendous response" to the first round of the process that is expected to lead to several hundred megawatts of offshore wind plant in British waters. The government expects offshore wind to contribute almost one-fifth of its 10% renewables target by 2010. The successful candidates and site locations from the first round will be announced in May.

Between 15 and 20 prospective offshore wind plant developers have applied for leases for sites around the UK's coast. The Crown Estate -- landowner of most of the UK territorial seabed -- calls it a "tremendous response" to the first round of the process that is expected to lead to several hundred megawatts of offshore wind plant in British waters.

Details of the successful companies and the location of sites will be released in May. Applications are for leases for up to ten square kilometres of seabed within 12 nautical miles offshore. Each site must have a minimum capacity of 20 MW but no more than 30 turbines. Given these conditions, industry insiders expect projects to be around 60 MW in size. Applicants -- which are likely to be consortia -- will have to demonstrate sufficient financial standing to carry out all phases of offshore development, from construction through to decommissioning, in addition to offshore development and wind turbine expertise.

"Our task now is to carefully assess applications against our criteria," says Frank Parrish of the Crown Estate. Initially, the Crown Estate will allocate sites to successful applicants, allowing them three years to install anemometry equipment and conduct environmental impact assessments before seeking statutory consents for development from the Departments of Trade and Industry and Environment, and the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food. If they obtain consent, developers will receive a 22 year Crown Estate lease.

The government expects offshore wind to contribute almost one-fifth of its 10% renewables target -- supplying 1.8% of UK electricity by 2010. To kick start the industry, the government is allocating £39 million of capital grants to offshore projects and £50 million from lottery funds, to be shared with energy crops.

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