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Green Living

Go-ahead for offshore wind farm sites

Expansions to offshore wind farm sites around the English coast which will provide enough power for an extra 1.4 million homes were given the green light today by the Crown Estate.

Five wind farm developments, off the coasts of Suffolk, Kent, Cumbria and in Liverpool Bay were given the go-ahead to extend their area, creating an extra 1.7 gigawatts (GW) of power.

All the area extensions will be subject to a full, new planning application, environmental impact assessment and consultation before construction can begin, the Crown Estate said.

And two projects off the coast of Norfolk have been given the go-ahead to install extra capacity to harness more wind energy within their designated offshore area.

In total the extensions permitted by the Crown Estate will provide an additional 2GW of power to the grid.

It is hoped the developments will add to England's energy security and provide jobs and a stable flow of construction projects for the supply chain before the massive "Round 3" expansion of offshore wind kicks in.

Rob Hastings, the Crown Estate's director of the marine estate, said the extra 2GW of power had been driven by "developers' appetite" for offshore wind.

He said: "It is another positive step in the maturing of the offshore wind industry and will significantly support the growth of the supply chain as it adds further to the pipeline of construction projects.

"This announcement shows the Crown Estate's commitment to help develop this maturing sector with a view to driving the UK offshore wind energy industry forward and creating a long-term sustainable energy source for the UK."

RWE Npower Renewables welcomed the green light to develop another wind farm with SSE Renewables next to their Outer Gabbard Sandbank site, around 19 miles off the coast of Suffolk.

The new "Galloper wind farm" scheme, which would have a capacity of around 500MW, will double the wind power which will be generated from the area.

Paul Coffey, chief operating officer of parent company RWE Innogy, said: "The opportunity to develop a wind farm close to the Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm site has a number of advantages: we know that this is an excellent site for a wind farm, there is already the necessary infrastructure in place, and if consented one can benefit from the long-term operational and maintenance activities due to the close proximity of the two wind farms."

Maria McCaffery, chief executive of industry body RenewableUK, said the announcement gave "definitive and positive" evidence of the environmental and commercial viability of existing offshore wind projects.

"The site extensions come as a direct consequence of the UK's world-beating offshore wind farms showing that, after a successful start, they have further potential for growth," she said.

In addition to the Greater Gabbard extension, Vattenfall Wind Power has been given approval to extend its Kentish Flats and Thanet projects off the coast of Kent, and Dong Wind UK has received the green light to extend Burbo Bank, near Liverpool, and Walney, Cumbria.

Centrica Renewable Energy has been permitted to install extra capacity on Race Bank and Warwick Energy can add to its Dudgeon site capacity, both off the Norfolk coast.

Responding to the announcement, Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Tony Bosworth said: "This is another significant step forward along the path to a greener, safer future.

"The UK's renewable energy potential is huge - maximising it would slash emissions, increase energy security and generate tens of thousands of jobs.

"All the major political parties agree on the need to build a low-carbon economy - urgent measures to boost green energy must be a top priority for whoever forms the next government."