Speaking at BWEA's Offshore 08 conference in Westminster, Rob Hastings, Director of the Marine Estate for The Crown Estate revealed that significant zones for 25GW of wind farms will be tendered out to developers through the summer of next year. This will halve the expected time taken for the initial development stages, with the first phases of the new Round 3 wind farms likely to start operating in 2015.
Maria McCaffery MBE, BWEA Chief Executive said 'This is fantastic news for the UK wind industry, with Britain's seas now officially opened for business. This announcement has brought delivery of the 2020 renewable energy targets a great deal closer'
The Crown Estate has identified an initial 11 zones, which they expect to allocate to developers next year. After this they will then work with the developers to identify specific sites within the zones. This allocation process will be based on the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) being carried out by BERR, which will examine issues such as the impact on wildlife and habitat, shipping lanes and fishing, with the zones being adjusted to reflect the SEA findings. Once the individual sites have been finalised The Crown Estate could co-fund the final stages of the planning process with developers. By 2013 individual sites will start to receive planning permission, with the first phases of the new wind farms becoming operational in 2015.
McCaffery said 'BWEA has been calling for the approvals process to be reduced from an average of 8-9 years down to 5-6 years. This timetable is a very positive move forward. A wide range of developers are already looking to enter the offshore market - if the Government now acts to speed up the rest of the site assessment and approval process we are confident that we can deliver on time' She added 'There was a lot of scope for cutting the previous timescales for Rounds 1 & 2. If we are going reach the 2020 deadline then we must act on the lessons from the earlier rounds to get rid of excessive assessment burdens on developers and cut the time it takes to get planning permission'.