The Irish Sea zone was Centrica’s preferred location due to a combination of its close proximity to the shore, relative water depth and grid connections. It will provide valuable diversity by being on the west coast, away from the majority of other planned UK wind farms, giving access to a different wind regime, at a different time to the majority of other sites. Through its gas developments in the Irish Sea and the Barrow offshore wind farm, Centrica already has experience of working in the area. The zone encompasses a significant volume of projects, and will provide the stimulus for new hubs of offshore wind energy deployment and support services in the area.
Having been successful in previous licensing rounds for offshore wind Centrica has already built and refinanced the Lynn and Inner Dowsing wind farms on the east coast, and expects to commence construction at the 270 megawatt (MW) Lincs offshore wind farm development later this year. Docking Shoal and Race Bank, Centrica’s two other Round Two wind farm proposals, which are awaiting consent, could add a further 1.1 GW – enough to power 760,000 homes.
Sarwjit Sambhi, Managing Director of Power Generation at Centrica, said: "The UK has bold carbon reduction targets and we need to take bold actions to achieve them. Developing in the Irish Sea zone could dramatically increase our renewable energy output, but offshore wind power is expensive to build and we will need a long-term, stable support mechanism to make these investments commercially viable for the foreseeable future.
"Round Three should send a strong signal to the renewables supply chain in the UK and a suitable support mechanism would incentivise its creation to increase competition, reducing costs and creating thousands of new jobs."
Centrica has secured development support services for this wholly owned project from leading renewables developer, the RES Group. RES has provided development support to Centrica on a number of successful wind farm projects, but is not an equity partner.
Consultation, zone assessment and environmental impact assessments will now be carried out to establish the number of wind farm sites and locations within the zone. Once this is complete, individual site consents will be sought. Construction is not likely to begin until at least 2016, and remains subject to a final investment decision. It is anticipated that the wind farms within the zone will be operational in time to contribute to meeting the UK’s 2020 climate change targets.
Nine seabed zones have been awarded to developers by The Crown Estate to deliver a total of around 25GW of renewable electricity. This is in addition to rounds one and two, which will deliver a total of around 8GW.
The RES Group is a leading independent renewable energy developer. Centrica has a long standing relationship with RES, acquiring its first onshore wind farm from it in 2004. The RES Offshore team has been an integral part of the Centrica development team throughout its offshore wind farm developments in the Greater Wash, combining their renewable development, technical and engineering skills with Centrica’s own considerable project management and offshore experience. The RES Group has developed and/or built more than 4,500 MW of wind energy capacity worldwide.