The study includes the surveying of bird populations, studying the geology of the seabed, tagging marine mammals like grey and harbour seals, as well as charting how shipping, fishing and other industries use the seas around the UK.
The report, published as part of the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC) Strategic Environmental Assessment, along with the feedback from public consultation, will help inform decisions on where future offshore energy development can be built to further secure the UK’s fuel supplies. The report will now be subject to a 12 week public consultation.
Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband says: “In terms of electricity, offshore wind power could potentially make the single biggest contribution to our 2020 renewable energy target.”
The Crown Estate, as landlord of the seabed, will also consider the report’s findings as it develops its plans for Round 3 offshore wind development zones.
Rob Hastings, Director of the Marine Estate at The Crown Estate, says: “We welcome the launch of this report and recognise the critical part that it forms in the delivery of 25 GW of marine renewable energy by 2020. The publication of the study at this time ensures that as an industry we are well prepared to take on the challenges that will come as part of the Round 3 offshore windfarm leasing process.”
The Government recognises the challenge, particularly in the present financial circumstances, of encouraging investment in offshore wind, and says it is aiming to make the planning process easier, ensure quicker connection to the grid, offer better support to business and tackling supply chain blockages, and reform financial support for renewables.
The British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) welcomes the announcement as well as the shortlist for the Severn tidal power projects: “The two studies … confirm what the BWEA has been saying since UK’s renewable energy targets were published in January 2008: there is enough potential for wind, wave and tidal to supply every UK household with electricity…,” says Maria McCaffery, BWEA Chief Executive.