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The Crown Estate gives the go-ahead for Kentish Flats and Thanet Offshore windfarms to expand by 50%

The agency that controls the UK sea bed, the Crown Estate, today announced that it has agreed to extend the first and second wave of offshore wind farms to provide more than 2GW of additional capacity, enough to power 1.4 million extra homes. The organisation said it has authorised the extension of five existing offshore wind farms that combined could provide an additional 1.7GW of capacity, and had also approved the expansion of two other planned projects in order to provide an extra 340MW of capacity. The Crown Estate said that formal agreements with the three developers who run the existing wind farms are expected in the coming weeks. Rob Hastings, The Crown Estate's director of the marine estate, said in a statement that the expanded projects highlighted the growing confidence among offshore wind developers:

"This 2GW has been driven by developers' appetite and will increase the total potential 2020 installed capacity to 48 GW. It is another positive step in the maturing of the offshore wind industry and will significantly support the growth of the supply chain as it adds further to the pipeline of construction projects."

His comments were echoed by Maria McCaffery, chief executive of trade association RenewableUK, who hailed the announcement as:

"Definitive and positive evidence of the environmental and commercial viability of existing offshore projects. The site extensions come as a direct consequence of the UK’s world beating offshore wind farms showing that, after a successful start, they have further potential for growth. It is clear that developers are confident projects will continue to deliver and we welcome The Crown Estate's timely action in ensuring that this happens."

The U.K. in 2008 overtook Denmark to become the leading nation in installed offshore wind power, and last month reached 1 gigawatt of generating capacity. The three main political parties vying for power following last week’s general election have all said they plan to promote the industry as the U.K. strives to attain 15 percent of energy from renewables by 2015.

Kentish Flats is a 90MW (megawatt) wind farm off Whitstable and has been generating power since 2005. Along the coast, Vattenfall will complete construction of Thanet Offshore Wind Farm, which at 300MW, will be the largest offshore wind farm in the world - at least until the planned London Array project is completed. Vattenfall’s Kentish Flats and Thanet sites will be expanded as the Swedish company has won permits for an extra 198MW of capacity.

Ole Bigum Nielsen, head of Offshore Projects at Vattenfall Wind Power in the UK said:

"Vattenfall is pleased to have reached this important stage in the negotiations to extend Kentish Flats and Thanet offshore wind farms. The two existing projects that we own off the Kent coast are making a substantial contribution to the Kent economy and are going some way to helping deliver British climate change targets. Vattenfall's vision is to make electricity clean by 2050."

Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Tony Bosworth said:

"This is another significant step forward along the path to a greener, safer future. The UK's renewable energy potential is huge - maximising it would slash emissions, increase energy security and generate tens of thousands of jobs. All the major political parties agree on the need to build a low-carbon economy - urgent measures to boost green energy must be a top priority for whoever forms the next government."

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