• The Government has just announced a new round of contracts for difference (CFDs) for May 2019, and intends to run subsequent auctions every two years after that, together worth over half a billion pounds.
  • The Crown Estate has received eight applications to extend existing windfarms, which could add a combined 8GW of additional capacity for power generation.
  • Separately, a new round of seabed leasing for offshore wind developments is likely to be marketed next year.
  • Such developments could potentially see 1-2GW of new offshore wind capacity (between 60 and 140 turbines) every year during the 2020s.

Despite fully supporting offshore wind as a means to decarbonise the UK’s energy mix, the Chamber expressed concerns on the preservation of navigational safety, and minimising the additional emissions and fuel costs caused by vessels deviating around windfarms, explained Robert Merrylees, Policy Manager & Analyst at the UK Chamber of Shipping.

When new windfarms are constructed or extended, vessels on established routes may have to navigate around them. This can cause ships to be funnelled into narrower channels, which can increase the risk of collision, particularly in poor conditions or when accounting for weather routing...Were an accident to happen, we also have concerns that offshore turbines may hamper the ability of search and rescue teams to access the area,

...he notes.

Mr. Robert added that one primary concern is deviation: The shipping industry is making a concerted effort to minimise its carbon footprint and further reduce the emissions produced by ships – but these ambitions could be problematised if vessels have to re-route and spend more time at sea.

To mitigate these risks to safety and the environment, we are calling for thorough and careful consultation and open, transparent planning of any new windfarm site. We would like to see greater coordination between the Crown Estate, Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and other marine stakeholders when planning the location of new leasing sites to minimise disruption to shipping. Marine spatial planning can provide the basis for this but is often overlooked.

On a small scale, he continues, this would include ensuring that turbines do not obstruct direct routes for vessels underway between ports pairings, by calling for developers to be flexible in their layout of turbines, in accordance with MCA guidance, so as to minimise any deviation for ships.

On a larger scale, the planning process should reduce the potential for deviation over long distances, so that vessels do not need to zigzag around or between different windfarms, particularly those located in the waters of the UK and those of different exclusive economic zones (EEZ). To do this, there needs to be coordination between offshore wind developers internationally as well as with the shipping industry.

For brand-new developments, there needs to be a comprehensive overview of where the sites are located and how they will change the flow of vessel traffic through an area. For extensions to existing offshore windfarms, we’re calling for careful due diligence to be conducted to ensure that navigational safety is preserved. In essence, planners need to work with the shipping industry to mitigate any risk to vessels and to the people that work on them, as well as to our air quality. To do this, we need to coordinate.