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Concerns Rise As UK Blocks Offshore Wind Project

Posted: 06/06/2020

The UK government rejected plans for Vattenfall's Thanet Extension offshore wind project on 2 June, adding to the increasing frustration within Britain’s world-leading offshore wind industry as the pandemic creates delays at several other key projects.

According to Power Technology, three huge projects have seen delays in the past few months: Vattenfall’s Norfolk Vanguard and Norfolk Boreas projects, each 1,800 megawatts, and Ørsted’s 2,400-megawatt Hornsea 3.

The approval decisions for Hornsea 3 were supposed to have been made last October. The government has pointed to complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic for the delays with Boreas.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) citied the impact of Vattenfall's Thanet Extension project on shipping off the Kentish coast for its rejection of the plans.

The extension project would have added 340 megawatts to Vattenfall's existing 300-megawatt Thanet project site, which was the world's largest offshore wind farm for a time after its completion in 2010.

There are currently no signs showing the UK government’s long-term commitment to offshore wind is wavering, however, there is growing unease within the industry.

"If further delays are imposed [on] projects like these, the target of 40 gigawatts of offshore wind generation by 2030 will not be possible,” said Danielle Lane, UK Country Manager for Vattenfall. ” This, in turn, will mean that the UK no longer has a stake in the claim to being a leading offshore wind market.”

Vattenfall is assessing its options for the Thanet Extension project. The Swedish utility can challenge the rejection, but that process only looks at whether the original decision was lawful, rather than re-evaluating the project’s application.

“Norfolk Vanguard is one of the most innovative and ambitious offshore wind projects in the world,” continued Lane. “Yet this is now the second time it has suffered a delay, despite addressing all of the major concerns raised during the planning process.”

“Coming so soon after the decision on Norfolk Boreas was pushed back until October, the offshore wind industry will be left wondering about the government's intentions for this sector,” she commented.

Ørsted’s Hornsea 3 project has also been pushed back by one more month. “We are obviously disappointed not to have a decision on our application for Hornsea Project 3,” said an Ørsted spokesperson.

“We remain confident that Hornsea 3 is a viable project, which can play a vital role in helping the UK reach its legally binding net-zero targets in an environmentally sustainable way.

“It’s important that momentum is maintained across the industry and we eagerly await the decision from the Secretary of State on July 1," the spokesperson said.

The UK has 8.5 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity in operation today, more than anywhere else in the world, and the country recently increased its 2030 target from 30 gigawatts to 40 gigawatts.

Any UK energy projects larger than 50 megawatts must apply to the national government for a Development Consent Order. Since the lockdown began in late March, two major energy projects have been granted their consents by authorities in London: The Riverside Energy Park and Cleve Hill Solar Farm.

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