£75bn offshore wind programme signals new era

Crown Estate to reveal successful bidders for nine windfarm sites expected to create tens of thousands of new jobs and help the UK meet clean energy and carbon emission targets

The UK government announced a £75bn programme today to build thousands of offshore wind turbines that will kickstart the next phase of renewable power generation in Britain.

The Crown Estate revealed the successful bidders for at least 25GW of windfarms across nine zones in the seas around the UK.

The nine winning bidders are: Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd, SeaGreen Wind Energy Ltd, the Forewind Consortium equally owned by each of SSE Renewables, RWE Npower Renewables, Statoil and Statkraft, Siemens Project Ventures and Mainstream Renewable Power, East Anglia Offshore Wind Ltd equally owned by Scottish Power Renewables and Vattenfall Vindkraft, Eon Climate and Renewables UK, Eneco New Energy, RWE Npower Renewables and Centrica Renewable Energy and involving RES Group.

The developments could create tens of thousands of new jobs, which will be crucial if the UK is to meet its targets for clean energy and carbon emission cuts.

Gordon Brown said: "This new round of licences provides a substantial new platform for investing in UK industrial capacity. The offshore wind industry is at the heart of the UK economy's shift to low carbon and could be worth £75bn and support up to 70,000 jobs by 2020."

The UK has the biggest wind resource in Europe - some estimates put the UK's share at one-third of the continent's total. Secretary of state for energy Ed Miliband said: "Today's news shows we're creating the right conditions for the energy industry to invest in harnessing it." Taking advantage of the country's potential wind power will be critical in meeting the targets set by government for the UK to meet 15% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020.

Round three will be the biggest wind programme announced by the Crown Estate so far and aims to accelerate the deployment of wind energy on a massive scale.

The nine sites in line for development include Dogger Bank, the Bristol Channel, the seas off Norfolk and the Firth of Forth. The proposed windfarms will be further away from the coast and in deeper waters than any existing offshore project, and therefore more challenging to build.

According to Greenpeace, Britain already leads the world in the deployment of offshore wind and has more projects installed, in planning or in construction than any other country. Almost 700MW of offshore turbines are already installed across nine projects, with around another 1.2GW under construction and a further 3.5GW in planning stages. By comparison, a large coal-fired power station generates about 1GW of electricity.

In advance of today's announcement, Greenpeace executive director, John Sauven, said: "Throughout its history Britain has shown the determination and ingenuity to tackle the great industrial challenges of each era. In the 21st century these qualities are being called on once again, to enable the transition from fossil fuels to clean, renewable sources of energy. Our country is home to some of the best engineers, mechanics and construction professionals in the world. Their expertise will be crucial if we are to harness the massive potential that new technologies like offshore wind have to offer."

The winning consortia will face several challenges, including a lack of offshore connections to the national electricity grid and limited capacity in the supply and installation chain for windfarms. "The scale of round three will require a dramatic increase in manufacturing capacity for offshore wind, such as turbines, foundations, offshore electrics and installation vessels," said the British Wind Energy Association. It estimates that more than 55,000 jobs could be created in the planning, construction and maintenance of the thousands of wind turbines that will be built in the next decade.

However, Britain currently has no commercial-scale wind turbine manufacturing plants, following the closure of the Vestas plant on the Isle of Wight last year.

Another issue is that existing subsidies for offshore wind are only guaranteed until 2014, but very few of the round three projects will have begun operating by then.

The winning developers

Moray Firth Zone, Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd which is 75% owned by EDP Renovaveis and 25% owned by SeaEnergy Renewables - 1.3 GW

Firth of Forth Zone, SeaGreen Wind Energy Ltd equally owned by SSE Renewables and Fluor - 3.5 GW

Dogger Bank Zone, the Forewind Consortium equally owned by each of SSE Renewables, RWE Npower Renewables, Statoil and Statkraft - 9 GW

Hornsea Zone, Siemens Project Ventures and Mainstream Renewable Power, a consortium equally owned by Mainstream Renewable Power and Siemens Project Ventures and involving Hochtief Construction - 4 GW

Norfolk Bank Zone, East Anglia Offshore Wind Ltd equally owned by Scottish Power Renewables and Vattenfall Vindkraft - 7.2 GW

Hastings Zone, Eon Climate and Renewables UK - 0.6 GW

West of Isle of Wight Zone, Eneco New Energy - 0.9 GW

Bristol Channel Zone, RWE Npower Renewables, the UK subsidiary of RWE Innogy - 1.5 GW

Irish Sea Zone, Centrica Renewable Energy and involving RES Group - 4.2 GW

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