Seabed owner the Crown Estate is extending the offer to all Round 1 and 2 projects and also to new entrants who might work on extensions with existing project owners. It stipulates that extensions must be capable of delivery in a short timescale.
The aim of the offer, known in wind-industry circles as "Round Two and a Half," is to build new offshore wind capacity ahead of the larger and more complex Round 3 projects that will be sited further out to sea. Rob Hastings from the Crown Estate says: "In the years leading up to construction of the larger Round 3 projects, the extension of existing sites will provide the offshore wind supply chain with further confidence in a pipeline of construction projects."
Expressions of interest are to be registered by September 9, followed by more detailed applications. After the Crown Estate awards site options, developers will have to produce environmental impact assessments and go through the usual construction permitting process. If approved by the government, developers will then be awarded 50-year site leases. The offer of site extensions follows an invitation by the Crown Estate in June to developers to apply for longer site leases on existing projects to allow a full operational period for wind farms and for repowering of sites.
Meantime, the Crown Estate has announced that it has selected preferred and reserve bidders for each of the nine Round 3 zones. Round 3 is expected by the government to produce 25 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2020.
Over the summer, the Crown Estate has been sifting through 40 bids from 18 companies or consortia for exclusive rights to develop within each of the zones - some of which cover vast areas far out to sea. The organisation says it has now entered detailed discussions that should lead to the awarding of zone contracts by the end of the year.
As yet, the companies and the Crown Estate are bound by confidentiality, but it expects to announce the successful zone developers in the autumn or winter.