The Crown Estate has published detail of plans for its next round of offshore windfarms – including proposed locations to be offered for new seabed rights – and said 7 GW, rather than 6 GW could now be developed.
Following engagement with market and statutory stakeholders, updated proposals for Round 4 offshore wind leasing were unveiled at a stakeholder engagement event on 15 November 2018.
The updates include The Crown Estate’s proposed refinement of available seabed regions – within which developers would have the opportunity to identify and propose sites. The work, underpinned by a detailed assessment of spatial constraints and developed in collaboration with statutory stakeholders, identifies five regions that The Crown Estate proposes to include in plans for a new leasing round, on the basis that they are technically feasible, include sufficiently large areas of available seabed for offshore wind development and have lower levels of development constraint.
It also identified four regions which The Crown Estate proposes to take forward for further consideration, on the basis that additional work is required to build the evidence base and engage with technical stakeholders about these areas, in order to better understand the seabed resource and constraints and confirm their inclusion.
Nine regions that will not be taken forward as part of Round 4, on the basis that they are impacted by significant development constraints, which would be challenging to mitigate, namely: defence ranges and exercise areas; visual sensitivity (where development would predominately or entirely be within 13 km of shore) and overlap with shipping routes that contain traffic of more than 1,000 ships per year.
As plans progress, The Crown Estate will continue to engage with technical stakeholders and build the evidence base on the nine regions being taken forward at this stage. This will enable it to finalise the regions to be offered to market, ahead of confirming the launch of Round 4, and later, help to inform developers in their identification of sites.
To reach this point, The Crown Estate has undertaken extensive spatial analysis of technical resource and constraints, including other sea users and environmental sensitivities, through a combination of Geographic Information System (GIS) and qualitative analysis.
The detailed analysis that underpins the regions refinement work will be published later this month, including: a methodology report, GIS model outputs, associated draft characterisation reports for each of the nine regions being taken forward at this stage and an Interim Summary Stakeholder Feedback Report.
Other updates to The Crown Estate’s proposals shared at the event included the fact that capacity is likely to be increased from 6 GW to 7 GW, in light of strong market appetite and the desire to ensure a sufficient pipeline is in place. Available regions are to be extended from 50 m to 60 m water depths, after feedback from industry confirmed appetite for development of fixed foundation turbines beyond the 50 m initially proposed.
Following statutory stakeholder feedback, The Crown Estate is also commissioning additional work on key issues of uncertainty, including further assessments on marine protected area sensitivities, ornithology and visibility analysis.
A parallel engagement event with the market will take place on 26 November, at which The Crown Estate will share further detail on the proposed tender design. Registration for this event, which is targeted at potential leasing process participants, is open until 21 November.
The Crown Estate senior development manager Jonny Boston said, “We are pleased to share the work we’ve undertaken since the summer to refine our initial proposals for Round 4, building on the extensive and constructive feedback we received from statutory bodies and the market.
“To reach this point, we’ve undertaken significant analysis, in close engagement with statutory stakeholders, to help build a detailed picture of seabed resource and constraints around England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We will continue to refine this work as we progress with our plans, helping build the evidence base to reduce consenting risk, balance a range of needs on the seabed, and ensure developers are well placed to bring the strongest possible projects forward”.