Crown Estate to confirm successful consortia granted rights to develop nine offshore zones
Prime Minister Gordon Brown will this week confirm the winners of the long-running auction to build the UK's next wave of giant offshore wind farms, officially firing the starting pistol on the race to deliver over 25GW of renewable energy.
The Crown Estate, which manages UK waters, is expected to announce the award of nine offshore sites for the so-called Round 3 developments.
The Prime Minister is scheduled to attend the announcement of the winners at an event in Exeter, and will highlight the economic benefits that will arise from the £100bn project. He is also expected to reveal that the submissions put forward by the various criteria suggest that the nine zones could deliver more energy than the 25GW of capacity that was originally estimated.
The consortia bidding for the projects, which include the UK's big six energy firms as well as a raft of European wind energy specialists, have been told which have been awarded access to the zones but have been not able to publicise their success until after the announcement.
However, the Sunday Times reported yesterday that a consortium including RWE Npower, Scottish and Southern Energy, and Norwegian firms Statkraft and StatoilHydro was thought to have won the rights to develop the largest site - the Dogger Bank zone, which is situated 110km off the east coast of the UK and is expected to deliver up to 10GW of power.
The paper also said that Scottish Power and Vattenfall were front runners to develop a 5GW zone off the Norfolk coast, while Sea Energy and EDP are thought to have been awarded a site in Scotland's Moray Firth. Wind energy specialist Mainstream Renewables and energy giants E.ON and Centrica were also said to have lodged successful applications.
Once the successful consortia have been formally announced they will accelerate their scoping work before lodging formal planning applications. Construction work is expected to begin around 2014 with the government optimistic that the bulk of the projects will be completed by 2020 and will make a major contribution to the UK's target of generating 15 per cent of its power from renewable energy sources by the end of the decade.
However, doubts remain about the ability of the consortia to deliver the new offshore wind farms on schedule.
Many of the smaller Round 2 projects, such as the high profile London Array development, have been hampered by technical and funding issues and many analysts are predicting that the more technically-demanding deep water Round 3 projects will face similar delays. At a recent CBI event, hardly any of the executives in attendance believed the 2020 deadline would be met.
However, the British Wind Energy Association maintains that the high level of interest from bidders in the projects suggests their is confidence the necessary funding can be raised for the new developments, as long as the government maintains current levels of financial support for the still fledgling industry.
The trade group has also estimated that the Round 3 projects alone will generate up to 60,000 jobs.
The bulk of the turbines are expected to be provided by foreign firms, but the Crown Estate said that it will launch a supply chain road show for British manufacturers later this month in an attempt to ensure UK firms benefit from the giant infrastructure project.
The announcement of the successful consortia comes as the government prepares to move forward with plans to work with eight other countries to develop a North Sea super grid, designed to transmit energy from a wide range of renewable energy sources such as offshore wind farms and Scandinavian hydro-electric plants to major population hubs.
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