The British government this month awarded exclusive development rights for nine offshore wind farms. The combined potential 32,000-MW capacity of the awarded zones would increase the country’s wind-energy generation by nearly 47 times today’s installed capacity of 688 MW, although development is expected to play out over two decades.

Map: Crown Estate
Offshore Wind Zones

Industry appetite for offshore wind led The Crown Estate, which is responsible for coastal waters, to raise the scope of the nine sites from the 25,000 MW originally proposed, says a spokesman.

East Anglia Offshore Wind Ltd., a Spanish-Swedish joint venture, won the biggest development. The 7,200-MW Norfolk Bank Zone is sited 55.5 kilometers off the east coast in water depths ranging from five to 70 meters.

Project costs will vary with water depth and distance to shore. Based on the most recent contracts, investment in the full development would exceed $160 billion.

From the previous round of licenses, developer London Array last month agreed to $2.9 billion of contracts for the first 630 MW of its planned 1,000 MW. Work some 12 km offshore in the Thames Estuary and in water up to 23 m deep is due to start next year.

A range of factors will affect timing, say industry sources. However, the government aims to have around 20,000 MW of offshore wind power in operation by 2020, according to British Wind Energy Association, London.