A continuous program of offshore wind exploration and licences is to be revealed as the way forward for future UK offshore wind development. The British Wind Energy Association (BWEA), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Crown Estate -- owner of most of the UK's territorial seabed -- have agreed the broad outlines of a strategy that will be launched for consultation at BWEA's annual conference in October. Under the proposals, developers will apply to the Crown Estate for an area of exploration. If approved they will be granted exclusive rights to the area for two years allowing them to refine their search to a particular site within the area and conduct consultations and environmental and geological studies before making applications for a site lease and for planning consent. The consents process should not be a protracted affair, says Alison Hill from BWEA. "The DTI has guaranteed that this will not take a long time." The first offshore wind farms under the program are expected to be built in 2005. "We expect several gigawatt scale projects to emerge," she says.