Huge increase in wind power planned

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A new programme to open up the UK's seas to more wind farms was launched today as part of a bid to increase massively the supply of offshore renewable power.

The Crown Estate, owner of the seabed around Britain, launched round three of its scheme to license companies to build wind farms, which it hopes will speed up the delivery of offshore renewables.

The Estate has earmarked 11 areas which have the potential to be viable offshore wind sites, due to the levels of wind, water depth and potential connection to the grid and taking in shipping and environmental concerns.

Successful bidders will be given exclusive rights to develop farms, and the Crown Estate is planning to co-fund up to 50% of the costs of getting planning consent for the projects.

The Estate said it was also prepared to fund work which would speed up wind farm delivery, such as action to address problems with the turbine and installation supply chain and connections to the grid - some of the issues faced by wind power companies.

If successful, round three of the licensing programme could deliver up to 25GW of offshore capacity - three times the 8GW being developed under rounds one and two of the scheme.

The scheme aims to deliver on the Government announcement last December of a major expansion of offshore wind power which could provide up to 33GW of energy - enough to power every household in Britain.

Developing offshore wind on a large scale will be key to delivering the UK's share of the EU target to source 20% of all energy from renewables by 2020, Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks said.

He said wind power would help tackle two of the big challenges faced by the country - climate change and energy security.

"The expansion of wind energy is already a real success story for the UK. We will shortly become the leading country in the world in terms of the number of wind farms operating offshore," Mr Wicks said.

"The Government is aware of the costs and supply challenges facing the industry.

"It's hoped the Crown Estate's investment and leasing programme for round three will provide developers with confidence to make investments much earlier on, like signing grid connection agreements or ordering turbines."

Rob Hastings, the Crown Estate's director of marine estates, said the new programme would see the Estate investing directly in offshore wind development for the first time - although it would not own or operate the farms.

"We recognise that the 2020 EU renewable energy target is a major challenge for the UK.

"It will demand a strategic vision, combining innovation in technology and energy infrastructure with sympathy for environmental concerns.

"In partnership with wind farm developers, we will need to establish the best location for wind farms within the programme and gain consensus with key stakeholders to deliver each scheme.

"We need to be sensitive to other marine users and conservation interests, and we have to deliver all this in the context of worldwide competition and a limited supply of new wind turbines.

"For these reasons we believe that a holistic and joined-up approach is key to the delivery of this project," he said.

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