The Crown Estate, which owns and manages the seabed of the UK’s coastal waters, has been engaged over the last month in determining bids for development of major new off-shore wind farms to be built over the next decade in Round 4 of its development programme (for details of previous rounds, click here).

In answer to a question raised in parliament last week by Hastings and Rye MP Sally-Ann Hart, the Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth, Kwasi Kwarteng, confirmed that in addition to a proposed extension to the Rampion offshore wind farm off Brighton, “there is significant market interest in the Crown Estate’s current sea-bed leasing round, and that, we expect, will include areas off the coast of the south-east of England, near my hon. Friend’s constituency”.

PICTURE: Nicholas Doherty/Unsplash

It was already known that among the four most favoured locations around Britain for new installations in this Round is the stretch of Kent and Sussex coast between Dover and Selsey Bill. In an area of approximately 7,000 square kilometres there’s an average depth of 37 metres, which, according to the Crown Estate prospectus, makes it “well suited to lower cost, fixed foundation offshore wind technologies”. 

Mrs Hart has told HIP that in private discussions with the Crown Estate prior to the Covid-19 lockdown she voiced concerns about wind turbines being erected off the coast of Hastings, Rye and Camber. “As much as I firmly believe we should be harnessing our wind, wave and tidal resources to the maximum” she says, “we also have to consider fishing and tourism, as well as our residents. It would depend on where they would actually be located.”

It is far from clear, however, what account will be taken in the bidding process of the matters that concern Mrs Hart. Tenders were being submitted to the Crown Estate by competing developers last month. Once these have been assessed and awards made – largely, if not wholly, it seems, on comparisons of financial return – a “Plan-Level Habitats Regulation Assessment” will be undertaken to assess the possible impact of the awarded projects on relevant nature conservation sites.

Agreements for lease are expected to be entered into during the autumn of 2021. These are likely to have a term of 60 years.

Explaining this time scale, the Crown Estates prospectus states that developing an offshore wind farm in UK waters, from initial concept through to commercial operation, “can take up to ten years”. 

Their aim is to raise the proportion of the UK’s electricity generation from offshore wind farms to 33% by 2030 as part of the longer term national goal of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases to “net zero” by 2050.

We hope you have enjoyed reading this article. The future of our volunteer led, non-profit publication would be far more secure with the aid of a small donation. You can also support local journalism by becoming a friend of HIP. It only takes a minute and we would be very grateful.