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BP and Total bid for offshore wind farm sites in Round 4 leasing exercise

The Crown Estate has announced its latest round of six proposed offshore wind projects in the waters around England and Wales, together representing just under 8 GW of potential new offshore wind generating capacity with the opportunity to deliver clean electricity for more than seven million UK homes. 

Successful projects have been selected through a competitive seabed tender process and will now progress to the environmental assessment stage. With 39 GW of offshore wind already in operation, construction and planning – projects emerging from Round 4 could deliver a 21% increase in the development pipeline, a major contribution towards the government’s target of 40 GW by 2030, says the Crown Estate.

However, the nearly 8 GW awarded in this 4th Leasing Round is significantly lower than the 32 GW secured in the 3rd leasing round held in 2010.

Winning projects included some interesting names from the oil and gas industry, including Total and the Green Investment Group for a 1.5 GW scheme planned off the Lincolnshire coast, and a consortium of BP and EnBW for 3 GW of schemes off the North Wales and  Lancashire coasts. RWE Renewables was the other big winner, for two schemes totalling 3 GW off the Yorkshire coast. 

The projects will now progress to the next stage of the process, known as a Plan-Level HRA, which assesses the potential impacts of Round 4 schemes on the UK national network of protected areas. This important step to help to preserve the UK’s marine environment must be done before the Crown Estate can award seabed rights. The HRA process is expected to conclude in spring 2022. 

Subject to the outcome, developers would then be granted an Agreement for Lease by the Crown Estate and be able to progress projects through the planning process. The projects could begin to generate clean electricity by the end of the decade, adds the Crown Estate.

Commenting on the move, trade association RenewableUK drew attention to the size of the ‘option fees’ that winning bidders made in this round. Companies were invited to submit bids for an option fee for each of the available sites, which will be paid annually until companies finalise their plans to build the new wind farms, up to a maximum of 10 years.

This is the first time a bidding process has been used to set such fees, said RenewableUK. Previously, the Crown Estate had set fixed annual option fees. The option fees announced, totalling £879mn per year, or £111mn per GW per year, represent a very significant sum for developers, says RenewableUK. In comparison, developing and constructing a 1 GW offshore wind farm currently requires investment of around £2.5bn. 

RenewableUK’s Deputy Chief Executive Melanie Onn said: ‘The result of this leasing round shows that while demand for new offshore wind projects has never been higher, too few sites were made available to meet this demand. Any auction run on that basis will inevitably lead to high fees like these, and our concern is that this could ultimately mean higher costs for developers and consumers.’ 

Also offshore, EDF Renewables says it plans to build phase two of the Blyth Offshore Demonstrator (BOD) wind farm off the coast of Northumberland using floating offshore technology. 

The first phase of the wind farm, consisting of five wind turbines installed in 2017 and with a generating capacity of 42 MW, was the first UK offshore wind farm to utilise ‘float and submerge’ gravity base foundations, says EDF. 

The company is now working on project planning for phase two, with a consent variation to use the Blyth site for the installation of up to five further turbines 14 km from the shore in water depths of around 55 m. The turbines to be installed in the phase two project will be constructed on floating substructures, with a range of floating technology options being considered, says the company.

News Item details

Journal title: Energy World

Countries: UK -

Organisation: Total|British Petroleum

Subjects: Offshore wind power

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