Crown Estate passes 2.85 GW extension projects

In: Windfarms
The Crown Estate has completed the plan level Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) for the 2017 project extension applications. Seven projects with a combined capacity of 2.85 GW will now progress to the award of rights stage.

The HRA, which The Crown Estate has undertaken as a requirement of the Habitats Regulations, assesses the possible impact of the proposed wind farm extensions on relevant nature conservation sites of European importance. Throughout its assessment process, The Crown Estate, consulted with the statutory marine planning authorities, the statutory nature conservation bodies and a number of non-governmental stakeholders.

The developers of the seven extensions listed below will now progress with project specific environmental assessments and surveys before seeking planning consent for their projects through the statutory planning process.

The seven extensions are at:
Sheringham Shoal, Dudgeon, Greater Gabbard, Galloper, Rampion, Gwynt y Môr and Thanet.

As part of the 2017 extensions opportunity, The Crown Estate also received an application for
Race Bank Extension project. The majority of the site for this proposed extension sits within the Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge Special Area of Conservation (SAC).  Based on the best available evidence, the plan level HRA determined that it would not be possible to rule out an adverse effect on the integrity of the SAC. The Race Bank extension project will therefore not progress to the award of leasing rights as part of the 2017 extensions round.

Race Bank Extension there is an option to consider pursuing a derogation case under the Habitats Regulations. As a first for the offshore wind sector, this would be conducted in conjunction with a broad range of stakeholders, and would cause a delay to the award of rights for the seven other proposed extension projects. The Crown Estate stated that it has therefore taken the decision not to pursue this route at this time. It will continue to work with the developers of Race Bank Extension and with stakeholders, to consider next steps.

The Crown Estate stated that it will be publishing its Appropriate Assessment, which includes an overview of the HRA methodology, on the Marine Data Exchange, along with the technical report which informed it (known as The Report to Inform the Appropriate Assessment).

To help successful developers’ consideration of the location of their transmission system infrastructure including export cabling, The Crown Estate has developed a Cable Route Protocol, which has been incorporated into the HRA. The Protocol will also be available on the Marine Data Exchange.

Will Apps, Head of Energy Development at The Crown Estate said: “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. In today’s increasingly busy sea-space, a collaborative approach will become all the more crucial, ensuring that the continued ambitious growth of offshore wind happens in balance with the wide range of other interests offshore. We’ll continue to work closely with customers, stakeholders and Government to address spatial challenges, in support of responsible, future deployment of UK offshore wind."

The Crown Estate will build on the work undertaken as part of the HRA for 2017 extensions to help inform planning for future leasing. At this stage, it outlined that it remains open to all available options under the Habitats Regulations for Round 4, including pursuing a derogation, where appropriate. Further information on the Round 4 HRA approach will be provided at the time of launch, through the Information Memorandum.

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