The U.K. offshore wind pipeline has surpassed 50 gigawatts with the latest award of seabed rights revealed on Monday.

The Crown Estate, which manages the leasing process in England and Wales, has handed out extensions to a raft of existing projects that could accommodate a further 2.8 GW of power generation.

The U.K. government is targeting 40 GW of installed capacity by 2030, with 10 GW already operational. Offshore wind will make a major contribution to its economywide 2050 net-zero target.

In the first half of 2020, offshore wind provided 14 percent of the U.K.’s electricity, compared to 12 percent for onshore wind. Coal was down to 2.4 percent.

There are currently two live seabed leasing rounds: Round 4 in England and Wales (7 GW), and the 10 GW ScotWind tender (PDF) in Scotland. In total that’s 17 GW of potential generation capacity currently up for grabs. These are almost certainly the final leasing rounds for projects that could contribute to the government’s existing target. Between ScotWind and the existing portfolio, there is now 50 GW worth of opportunities being developed up and down the country's coast, according to the Crown Estate.

German utility giant RWE is involved in several of the new extensions, referred to as the 2017 extensions, which were embedded in previous lease awards to offer a quick route to extra megawatts.

In total, six projects have been extended: Sheringham Shoal, Dudgeon, Greater Gabbard (extension known as North Falls), Galloper (extension known as Five Estuaries), Rampion (extension known as Rampion 2) and Gwynt y Môr (extension known as Awel y Môr).

RWE is involved in the final four on that list, totaling 1.8 GW, and will own 900 MW of that capacity. It said permitting for the sites will take three to five years; the projects will then seek a contract for difference from the U.K. government. The company is also pressing ahead with Rampion 2, a joint venture that includes Macquarie and Enbridge. That will see RWE add a further 400 MW.

“With a combined RWE pro-rata share around 1.3 GW, this brings a massive boost to our project pipeline and strengthens RWE’s position as being the second-biggest player in offshore wind globally,” said Sven Utermöhlen, chief operating officer for global offshore wind at RWE Renewables, in a statement.

U.K. gets its offshore house in order

The U.K. has the most ambitious offshore wind target in Europe, double that of Germany, helped by its vast coastlines and shallow waters.

The existing 50 GW pipeline will need to deliver up another 30 GW of capacity to build on the 10 GW already in operation and hit its target. Beyond 2030, the government is consulting on other marine energy technologies, notably tidal stream and floating offshore wind. It’s looking to design support and a route to market to maximize each technology’s cost-reduction path and deployment potential.

The U.K. is looking to add floating projects to its installed base in the years ahead in addition to the traditional bottom-fixed technology. The ScotWind seabed tender is the first to designate space for floating wind projects.

As a number of European countries, including Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, all add offshore wind capacity, the grid and seabed planning required to integrate projects both become more intricate.

Having been excluded from the EU North Sea Energy Cooperation platform following Brexit, the U.K. is not part of central efforts to coordinate siting and grid planning for offshore wind. It will be invited to participate when it is "in the interests of the EU" to do so.

National Grid, which is responsible for the majority of the U.K.’s transmission infrastructure, is working directly with its Dutch peers TenneT to connect offshore wind capacity to both nations. The hybrid approach serves as a standard interconnector as well as providing two routes to market for the offshore wind turbines’ power, increasing the utilization rate of projects.