The Crown Estate has confirmed that seven offshore wind extension projects will progress to the award of rights following the completion of its plan level Habitats Regulation Assessment (HRA).
The Crown Estate launched the opportunity for existing wind farms to apply for project extensions in February 2017, with eight applications received by the closing date in May 2018.
Under the Habitats Regulations, The Crown Estate was required to undertake a “plan level HRA” to assess the possible impacts of the eight proposed extensions on relevant nature conservation sites of European importance. This HRA concluded that seven of the applications did not have an adverse effect and could therefore proceed.
The seven successful projects – which together represent 2.85 GW of new generating capacity – are:
- Sheringham Shoal offshore wind farm
- Dudgeon offshore wind farm
- Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm
- Galloper offshore wind farm
- Rampion offshore wind farm
- Gwynt y Môr offshore wind farm
- Thanet offshore wind farm
The eighth project, an extension to the 573 MW Race Bank offshore wind farm, is sited primarily within the Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The plan level HRA concluded that an adverse effect on the integrity of this SAC could not be eliminated and, accordingly, the project has not progressed to the award of rights stage. The Crown Estate identified that this decision was sufficient to avoid adverse effects across the plan, and this has consequences for potential in-combination effects on qualifying features in respect of both the North Norfolk Coast SPA and the Greater Wash SPA too.
Project specific environmental assessments will be required for each site before the developers seek planning consents under the statutory planning process. Importantly, the plan level HRA identifies mitigation measures that will be secured. These are:
- at a plan level, a cable route protocol which will be secured in the agreement for lease with The Crown Estate; and
- at a project level, a list of recommended works to inform project level habitats regulation assessments when these come forward.
The Offshore Wind Extension round is distinct from The Crown Estate’s Round 4, and from Crown Estate Scotland’s ScotWind, offshore leasing rounds, both of which are expected to launch later this year.