In October 2019, the Crown Estate announced Round 4 auctions of the UK seabed for further wind farm development after 130 commercial bidders had expressed an interest. It was stated that “Leasing Round 4 follows more than 18 months of engagement with the market and stakeholders through which The Crown Estate developed and refined its proposals.” The national plan for Round 4 is to provide an extra 7.3GW of offshore wind capacity (i.e. 7300MW) in total. The new wind farms would need to occupy only a very small proportion [2.5%] of the total area being offered by the Crown Estate . This gives great scope to meet national targets for renewables – whilst also selecting those areas that are most efficient at generating electricity and minimise the cost to consumers.
Four areas have been chosen as leasing areas for bidding, and they are shown in Figure 3. Leasing Area 1 (Dogger Bank) has large areas which are in areas of high wind power density (which minimises their intermittency) and are in relatively shallow water. The government has recently announced the upgrading of the infrastructure in the Teesside and Humber regions to enable greater use of this area. This makes them ideally suited to wind farms.
The Dogger Bank area also has the area to accommodate 114 GW of wind farm capacity. The result of the Round 4 leasing was announced in February 2021 the Crown Estate allocated a further 8GW of capacity to the wind farm pipeline for 2030 resulting in a pipeline total of 60GW (to meet the original target of 40GW by 2030). It added 4.5 GW extra for the North Sea and 3.5 GW extra for N. Wales and the Irish Sea. Areas selected by commercial bidders were in areas of high wind power density and with an offshore transmission network planned. There were no bids for the South East region – a region of relatively low wind power density with no offshore transmission network planned.
There is still space to accommodate many times the capacity needed for net-zero by 2050 in these three selected areas.
Creating new wind farms is a national priority. However, these need to be sited in areas of high wind power density to maximise their efficiency and so reduce the UK’s dependence on gas and reduce carbon emissions. Area 1 is an ideal location to achieve this and to accommodate all the UK wind farm needs.