Guidance

Offshore wind: part of the UK's energy mix

How to plan offshore wind farms and get investment grants and how we're helping UK industry win a greater share of renewables business.

Overview

Offshore wind generation offers the potential to considerably expand the UK’s renewable energy content.

The UK is number one in the world for offshore wind power generation in terms of installed capacity, and we have the biggest pipeline up to 2020.

There is a balance to strike between the need to secure our energy future, and clean up our energy sector – while preserving the UK’s natural environment for future generations.

Wind farms can be an important clean energy source for the UK, and can provide a considerable source of ‘home-grown’ energy with minimal emissions. However, they can be very significant developments and we need to make balanced decisions on the appropriate location of offshore wind farms, taking account of:

  • the needs of local residents
  • other users of the sea
  • the impact on the environment and marine and bird life

Planning process for offshore wind farms

All renewable energy developments take place within a formal planning procedure which allows everyone to be involved in considering the impact of a new project on the environment and the community.

Due to their size offshore wind projects are defined as a nationally significant infrastructure projects, which means that, in England and Wales, the Planning Inspectorate will examine the proposed development and make a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change to take the decision on whether to grant or to refuse consent.

A number of important issues are considered throughout the planning process for offshore wind farms, including:

  • bird and fish populations
  • electromagnetic radar interference
  • shipping and flight navigation
  • impact on the landscape

Further details can be found on the Planning Inspectorate website.

Read information on the Scottish Planning system and planning system for Northern Ireland.

Fishing

The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), a principal source of advice to the government on marine environmental issues, believes that wind farming will not affect fish stocks as a whole. However, individual developments may have an impact on fish and shellfish at particular locations.

The scale of any impact is assessed as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), undertaken in consultation with the fishing industry and the Sea Fisheries Inspectorate, which is part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The Fishing Liaison with Offshore Wind and Wet Renewables (FLOWW) group encourages open dialogue between the fishing industry and the wind energy sector, helping to foster closer relations between them.

Depending on their location, large offshore wind farms may impact upon navigation, for example if ships need to alter their course to navigate around a windfarm. These potential impacts are assessed as part of the consenting process.

The Energy Act 2004 included provisions for safety zones to be placed around renewable energy installations or structures, to protect them and passing shipping from collision and damage.

The Nautical and Offshore Renewables Energy Liaison (NOREL) Group provides a forum for government and industry to discuss matters of mutual interest related to navigation safety.

Habitats and Species

Potential offshore wind environmental impacts are considered on a project by project basis as part of the planning process through the requirement for developers to undertake Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) and Habitats Regulations Assessments (HRAs) where appropriate.

We recognise that better evidence about the extent of the environmental impacts of offshore wind farms, especially on sensitive receptors such as mobile species, is of prime importance and DECC continues to fund research to fill these strategic evidence gaps.

The landscape and other visual effects

Any potential developer of an offshore wind farm must also undertake a seascape and visual impact assessment (SVIA) as part of the EIA process. Considering the landscape implications of a proposal during the design process can produce schemes that are more acceptable, and can reduce or even remove any potential adverse effects.

Marine conservation zones study

In November 2010, DECC commissioned a study from ABPmer into the potential impact of a new marine conservation zone (MCZ) network on the growth of offshore renewables. You can read a background to the report from the project steering group in this explanatory note.

The study concluded that it is possible to develop an ecologically coherent network of MCZs in a way that minimises costs to offshore renewables projects.

Offshore Wind Cost Reduction Task Force

The Offshore Wind Cost Reduction Task Force was established to set out a path and action plan for reducing the levelised costs of offshore wind to £100 per MW/h by 2020. The Task Force reported in June 2012 and concluded that, although challenging, this can be done if recommendations are followed.

The Offshore Wind Programme Board, one of the key recommendations in the Task Force report, will take forward implementation of the recommendations as well as looking to address other barriers to offshore wind deployment. Find out more about the work of the task force.

Business development and funding guidance

DECC is working with UK industry and across Government and in partnership with the Devolved Administrations to help the UK win a greater share of offshore wind business.

This involves working closely with key wind turbine companies and the supply chain and regional partners such as Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and Centres for Offshore Renewable Engineering (COREs) to develop supply chain opportunities for companies able to compete on price and quality.

DECC’s Offshore Wind Manufacturing funding scheme

The cut-off date for the Offshore Wind Manufacturing funding scheme has passed and the scheme is now closed to new applications.

What is the role of the Crown Estate?

The Crown Estate will act as a facilitator between port owners and manufacturers to support the development of offshore wind manufacturing. If a port owner wishes to discuss what role the Crown Estate can play, contact roy.evans@thecrownestate.co.uk.

Innovation opportunities

Innovation has a significant role to play in improving low-carbon technologies and reducing the cost of energy. Read the detailed guide Innovation funding for low carbon technologies: opportunities for bidders to find out about the innovation opportunities available for onshore wind.