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Crown Estate seeks extra input for new UK offshore wind sites, sees 6-GW demand

The Crown Estate, which manages the seabed in most of the U.K., is opening a second round of consultations to designate new sites that will be leased for offshore wind development around England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Plans for a new offshore wind leasing round could be launched in the early part of 2019, maintaining a pipeline of projects through to the late 2020s and beyond, the Crown Estate said in a news release on Oct. 18. An initial round of engagement with more than 100 industry representatives in July showed that there was demand for at least 6 GW of new seabed rights, it said.

Earlier in October, the Crown Estate gave eight offshore wind farm operators permission to proceed with applications to expand their capacity by a collective 3.4 GW.

The Crown Estate also said that there was broad support for its proposed leasing model, whereby developers identify their preferred sites within broad regions, as well as for its plans to share detailed seabed data including geographic analysis, constraints assessment and stakeholder feedback to help inform developers' selection of sites and reduce consenting risks.

Updated proposals, including specific regions and tender designs, will now be presented to the market, statutory stakeholders and a broader group of non-statutory stakeholders in late November, the Crown Estate said.

The U.K. government in July announced support for an additional 1 GW to 2 GW of offshore wind capacity to be auctioned per year in the 2020s. The country is already the world's largest offshore wind market, with more than 7 GW in operation and a further 7 GW under construction or with contracts secured, according to industry association RenewableUK.

In the next auction in 2019, offshore farms will compete with remote island onshore wind farms for Contracts for Difference, or CfD, which receive a guaranteed strike price for the power they produce. The second CfD auction in 2017 saw the clearing price for offshore wind halve compared to the first auction in 2015, according to the government.