Consent has been granted for the addition of more than 1GW of offshore wind capacity in the North Sea. The UK’s energy ministry, DECC, has given the go-ahead to Centrica's 580MW Race Bank development and Warwick Energy's 560MW Dudgeon project.
Representing around £3bn (€3.6bn) of investment, they are due on stream in 2016 and will boost significantly the UK's existing 1.9GW of operational capacity.
Race Bank is located off the Lincolnshire and north Norfolk coasts, near the 270MW Lincs project being developed by Centrica, Dong Energy and Siemens. It would be connected to the National Grid at the existing Walpole substation.
Mark Hanafin, managing director of Centrica Energy, described the consent as "an important milestone." A thorough appraisal of project costs will now be undertaken, before a final investment decision is made early next year.
The Dudgeon site is located 32km north of Cromer. Mark Petterson, project director at Warwick Energy subsidiary, Dudgeon Offshore Wind Limited, said DECC's decision represented "a major step forward for the project, the offshore wind industry and for the UK economy".
Energy minister Charles Hendry said the UK was "racing ahead of the global field" in the development of offshore wind capacity. He added: "The two new offshore wind farms underline this momentum [and] will not only bring us considerable amounts of clean energy, but significant investment and jobs too."
But Centrica's application for its proposed 540MW Docking Shoal development has been refused, after a wait of nearly four years, due to a potentially adverse impact on seabirds. The birds, Sandwich terns, are protected under EU law. Their colonies at Blakeney Point and Scolt Head Island fall within the North Norfolk Coast Special Protection Area (SPA), a site belonging to the EU-protected Natura 2000 network.