Existing UK Wind Farms get one step closer to $7 billion doubling in size

This has been in the UK wind plan for a while, but news out this week that the Crown Estate is putting up another 2.8 GW of nameplate Wind farm capacity will come as a trigger to get back to converting the UK to at least 30% wind energy.

These are all offshore wind projects and they are extensions to existing wind farms online since 2010 through to 2018, and come after the Estate completed a review of how wind farms have affected natural habitats. The requirement to research this was abundantly clear in the 2017 awards and auctions, and these will now go the commercial award of rights.

The HRA, which The Crown Estate has undertaken as a requirement of the Habitats Regulations, assesses the possible impact of the proposed windfarm extensions on relevant nature conservation sites of European importance.

It is now naming the seven extensions at; Sheringham Shoal offshore wind farm opened in 2012, with 316.8 MW of capacity, and owned by Equinor and Statkraft; Dudgeon Offshore some 32km off the Cromer cost in Norfolk, completed in 2017 yielding 402 MW owned by Equinor, Masdar and China Resources; Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm, commissioned in 2012 and owned by Scottish and Southern, RWE and Npower, offering 504 MW capacity; Galloper Offshore Wind Farm, a 353 MW project, 30km off the coast of Suffolk owned by Innogy, Siemens, Sumitomo, ESB, Green Investment Group and Macquarie; Rampion, a 400 MW facility brought online in 2018 owned by E.ON, Green Investment Bank and Enbridge; Gwynt y Môr, a 576 MW farm off the coast of North Wales brought online in 2015 and owned by Npower, Stadtwerke München, Green Investment and Siemens; and the Thanet 300 MW offshore wind farm, owned by Vattenfall, and live since 2010.

The developers of the seven extensions listed above will now progress with project specific environmental assessments and surveys before seeking planning consent for their projects through the statutory planning process. It looks like the extensions will be roughly double the current size of the existing projects, since they all add up to 2.85 GW – which is the size of the award.

Total build cost on these original projects was some $12 billion, but at a variety of different ages, we would estimate that the extensions would have cost around 70% or less of that to build today, but given that most of the transmission assets are already in place, the figure could be considerably lower, and of course it all depends on when they get the go ahead and which technology of turbine they end up using. But one way or another this represents around another $7 billion of investment in UK offshore wind and we are sure it will be bartered and shared around appropriately across all the owners combined, and come to include some investors who are not currently involved in the UK offshore market.

In other words, this is a long drawn out process and there is more development work to be done before a spade can be put in the ground (or in the sea). None of these are floating rigs, and all have some form of connection directly to the sea bottom.

To help developers get the cabling right and in keeping with all the findings of the habitat report, the Crown Estate has developed a Cable Route Protocol which has been incorporated into the HRA.

As part of the 2017 extension opportunity, The Crown Estate also received an application for Race Bank extension project but there were some issues with the Habitats Regulations, so an extension was not offered. However an exemption made be made later, with some kind of appeals process or re-examination of the data, but it didn’t seem right for the Crown Estate to make the other 7 wait for this, so it simply is not included in the award.

The Crown Estate is also preparing for major new leasing under Round 4 of its leasing program, looking for another 7GW of Wind power, which will begin to go to auction later this year.

The Crown Estate said in a statement, “Project extensions offer an efficient opportunity to unlock almost a 10% increase in the UK offshore wind portfolio, supporting the continued growth of the development pipeline and demonstrating continued strong market appetite for new projects in UK waters.”6