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Environmental study to inform location of future offshore energy developments

Jan 26, 2009 - Dept 0f Energy and Climate Change (UK National)

A new study of the UK's shores, published today, recommends there's scope for between 5,000 and 7,000(1) more offshore wind turbines, enough to power the equivalent of almost all the homes in the UK and make a massive contribution to renewable energy targets.

Experts have spent more than a year surveying the environment of the UK's seas to assess the potential for further development in offshore wind, oil and gas licensing and natural gas storage. The extensive work included the surveying of bird populations, studying the geology of the seabed, tagging marine mammals like grey and harbour seals, as well as charting how shipping, fishing and other industries use the seas around the UK.

The report, published as part of the Department of Energy and Climate Change's Strategic Environmental Assessment, along with the feedback from public consultation, will help inform decisions on where future offshore energy development can be built to further secure the UK's fuel supplies.

The report will now be subject to a 12 week public consultation.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said:

"In terms of electricity, offshore wind power could potentially make the single biggest contribution to our 2020 renewable energy target so it's vital we maximise the UK's natural resources to help in the fight against climate change.

"This report provides a real advance in our understanding of the ecology and geology of the UK marine environment so we can continue to ensure that projects like wind farms are built in the most suitable places and that we will also protect the natural environment."

The Crown Estate, as landlord of the seabed, will also consider the report's findings as it develops its plans for Round 3 offshore wind development zones.

Rob Hastings, Director of the Marine Estate at The Crown Estate, said:

"We welcome the launch of this report and recognise the critical part that it forms in the delivery of 25GW of marine renewable energy by 2020. The publication of the study at this time ensures that as an industry we are well prepared to take on the challenges that will come as part of the Round 3 offshore windfarm leasing process."

We are already seeing the economic benefits of offshore wind in the UK, with NaREC's technology innovation centre in the North East and Vestas building turbine blades on the Isle of Wight. A 25GW expansion could create massive opportunities for jobs in engineering and manufacturing and further cement the UK's position as the global leader in offshore wind deployment.

Offshore wind power is hugely important in meeting the UK's renewable energy and climate change targets which is why the Government has proposed to increase the financial incentives to make the UK an attractive place for offshore wind development. Seven wind farms are already operating off the coast of the UK(2), a further five are under construction, nine have been approved and two are in the planning process.

Government recognises the challenge, particularly in the present financial circumstances, of encouraging investment in offshore wind which is why we are:

* Making the planning process easier

* Ensuring quicker connection to the grid

* Offering better support to business and tackling supply chain blockages

* Reforming financial support for renewables

In addition to wind farms, the seas around the UK provide some significant opportunities for sub-sea gas storage and we expect to consult further on new licensing arrangements for offshore gas storage in the near future.

(1) Based on 3.6MW turbines and 5MW turbines (2)North Hoyle, Scroby Sands, Kentish Flats, Barrow, Burbo Bank, Lynn and Inner Dowsing

Notes to editors

1. The Environmental Report is the main output of the Offshore Energy Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) ( launched in December 2007. The SEA will inform the Government Decision on whether to proceed with the draft plan to develop a further 25GW of offshore wind, in addition to the 8GW already planned in UK waters. It also informs the licensing of oil and gas and gas storage in hydrocarbon reservoirs.

2. The Environmental Report, which was produced by Hartley Anderson Ltd, will now be subject to 12 weeks' public consultation. Following consultation, the Government is expected to take a decision on the acceptable level of offshore wind development, as well as offshore oil and gas licensing and gas storage in hydrocarbon reservoirs, in Spring 2009.

3. As for previous DTI/BERR/DECC Strategic Environmental Assessments for oil and gas licensing and Round 2 of wind farm leasing, an extensive programme of studies has been undertaken to support the current Offshore Energy SEA. Several studies include new information, maps and images. It is planned to make all of the study reports publicly available on the SEA website In addition, all the reports and data are archived on the DEAL database.

4. In parallel to the SEA process, in June 2008, The Crown Estate (landlord of the UK seabed) launched its Round 3 leasing programme for the delivery of up to 25GW of new offshore wind generation by 2020. Bids for Round 3 zones will close in March 2009, enabling The Crown Estate to make awards later in 2009, following the Government's decision on the Offshore Energy SEA. The Crown Estate leasing programme is expected to accelerate delivery of offshore wind farm projects, resulting in quicker consenting decisions and, ultimately, more wind farms generating renewable electricity, more quickly. We could expect the earliest projects to be in a position to apply for consents any time from 2010 and potentially being built from 2015 onwards.

5. For further information on the wider work within DECC to facilitate the deployment of offshore wind, see web link

Department of Energy and Climate Change 7th Floor, 3-8 Whitehall Place, London, SW1A 9HH Public enquiries +44 (0)300 060 4000 Textphone +44 (0)20 7215 6740 (for those with hearing impairment)


Updated: 2016/06/30

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