THE WAY has been paved for over £1.6bn worth of investment in offshore wind energy following outline approval of 18 schemes by the Crown Estate.
Developers are now gearing up to apply for full planning consent. The process is likely to take three years and cost each firm in excess of £500,000, said a spokesman for Northern Offshore Wind, which is working on a scheme at Teesside.
Despite winning permission from the Crown Estate, which owns the sea bed in UK coastal waters (NCE last week), each of the 18 windfarm developers must demonstrate that its scheme will not affect navigation, fisheries or other marine, sea bed and bird life.
Each of the sites, housing up to 30, 3MW-3.5MW turbines, will occupy about 10km 2of sea bed.
They will be stationed 1.5km to 10km off the coast.
Developers must also confirm wind speed and consistency are as predicted and will offer a return on investment. It currently costs around £1M/MW to install and connect offshore wind turbines, said British Wind Energy Association chief executive Nick Goodall.
The cost of electricity generated offshore is expected to cost 5p per unit compared to 2p for conventionally generated electricity. The Government is expected to subsidise the cost of offshore wind, seen as vital to meeting its target of cutting 10% from CO 2emissions by 2010.