More offshore wind turbines could soon be seen around the UK
Successful bids for nine new offshore wind farm zone licences within UK waters have been announced.
A consortium including Npower and Norway's Statkraft won the licence for the biggest zone, in Dogger Bank, which could produce nine gigawatts of energy.
Turbines in the nine zones could generate up to 32 gigawatts of power, a quarter of the UK's electricity needs.
The winners have signed exclusive agreements with the Crown Estate, which owns the UK seabed.
Proposals for the wind farms will now go through planning and consent stages.
It will create one of the biggest infrastructure projects for wind energy in the world, with construction beginning in 2014 at the earliest.
The second largest zone, with a potential yield of 7.2 gigawatts, is at Norfolk Bank. The wind farm licence there has been won by a consortium of Scottish Power Renewables and Sweden's Vattenfall Vindkraft.
Speaking on behalf of the joint venture, Keith Anderson said the companies were "delighted" to have been awarded the development rights.
"It will be a major engineering challenge, but the combined experience of both partners acquired over decades in the energy business will help us deliver a project that will deliver enough green power to meet the equivalent annual electricity demand of more than five million homes in the UK," he said.
This is the third time companies have had a chance to bid for zones.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the government's policies to support offshore wind energy had put the UK ahead of other countries.
"This new round of licences provides a substantial new platform for investing in UK industrial capacity," he added.
"The offshore wind industry is at the heart of the UK economy's shift to low carbon and could be worth £75bn and support up to 70,000 jobs by 2020," he said.
However, the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) warned that the UK would only truly benefit if the turbines were manufactured here.
"We need to ensure the UK benefits through a boost in manufacturing, engineering and skills: but this will only happen if additional action is taken by the government through working actively to create coastal manufacturing hubs," said Maria McCaffery, BWEA chief executive.
The wind farm licences in full:
The Moray Firth Zone
Won by EDP Renovaveis and SeaEnergy Renewables. Potential yield: 1.3 gigawatts
The Firth of Forth Zone
Won by SSE Renewables and Fluor. Potential yield: 3.5 gigawatts
The Dogger Bank Zone
Won by SSE Renewables, RWE Npower Renewables, Statoil and Statkraft. Potential yield: 9 gigawatts
The Hornsea Zone
Won by Mainstream Renewable Power and Siemens Project Ventures, and involving Hochtief Construction. Potential yield: 4 gigawatts
The Norfolk Bank Zone
Won by Scottish Power Renewables and Vattenfall Vindkraft. Potential yield: 7.2 gigawatts
The Hastings Zone
Won by E.On Climate and Renewables UK. Potential yield: 0.6 gigawatts
The Isle of Wight Zone
Won by Eneco New Energy. Potential yield: 0.9 gigawatts
The Bristol Channel Zone
Won by RWE Npower Renewables. Potential yield: 1.5 gigawatts
The Irish Sea Zone
Won by Centrica Renewable Energy and involving RES Group. Potential yield: 4.2 gigawatts