The Crown Estate in the UK would like to encourage new players to respond as it considers plans for new offshore wind leasing - or what industry has begun to describe as 'Round 4.'
The Crown Estate, which manages rights to use the seabed in UK waters, first announced in November 2017 that it would consider new leasing for offshore wind projects following the government’s backing for offshore wind in the Clean Growth Strategy and the 2017 Contracts for Difference auction which demonstrated significant cost reduction.
Speaking at the Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum Keynote Seminar 'Next steps for UK wind energy: regulation, innovation and the offshore sector deal,' which took place in London on 12 July 2018, The Crown Estate head of energy development, Will Apps confirmed that “diversification would be a strength” and ways to encourage a greater range of actors in the process - including developers and operators - are actively being considered.
“New seabed leasing, if confirmed, wouldn't just be geared to the current investor audience,” he told delegates. “We are interested in diversification.”
Burges Salmon head of renewable energy, Ross Fairley noted that in Round 3 the focus on the design of leasing of seabed rights for offshore wind was on scaling up the size of projects compared to Round 2, but that could change in Round 4.
He later told OWJ “for a healthy offshore wind industry generally it is important to have credible new entrants from time to time. It maintains competition and can bring new ideas. I think that applies to both developers and investors as well as the supply chain.”
The Crown Estate has previously stated that support exists for a developer-led leasing model, with sites proposed and consented by developers (as per Rounds 1 and 2). It is currently considering how best to identify potential areas for leasing and has started engagement with statutory marine planning authorities.
The Crown Estate also said it is exploring a leasing model where developers identify sites within predefined, but relatively wide regions of seabed.
Mr Apps said having received eight applications for close to 3 GW to extend existing offshore windfarms, a number of these could be converted into awards in mid-2019.
In the longer term, he said, hybrid innovations and developments involving mixed technology hold potential to deliver efficencies and unlock cross-sector benefits.
He further noted that the seabed had sufficient development capacity “to provide more power than is necessary for UK domestic requirements.”