The Moray Firth wind power projects of EDP Renewables and Repsol have entered the planning system. The capacity of these projects, off the north east coast of Scotland, adds up to 1.5 GW to the grid.

These are the first projects in The Crown Estate’s Round Three leases to enter the planning system. RenewableUK expects a further 4.5GW of power to be submitted this year, in line with The Crown Estate’s ambition that Round Three planning applications should start in 2012. It is expected that first power will be achieved from a Round Three project in 2015, with up to 18 GW to become operational over the next 8 years, creating more than 47 000 direct and indirect jobs in offshore wind by 2021. .

However, business association RenewableUK sounded a warnign note. It emphasised that whilst this represents tangible progress, the timescales involved mean that policy certainty, laid out in the UK’s upcoming Energy Bill, is vital if investment is to remain strong.

RenewableUK’s chief executive, Maria McCaffery, said: “We’re marking a watershed moment as Round Three starts to become a reality with this planning application. It’s the first of many coming forward. As well as delivering secure supplies of low carbon electricity to British homes and businesses, our world lead in offshore wind can provide tens of thousands of jobs across the country, building and maintaining these turbines.

“However, the investment timelines for Round Three projects are long – we anticipate that the Moray Firth projects won’t generate power until 2018. So EDP Renewables, Repsol and the other developers lining up with them, need to be sure that this autumn’s energy bill will provide certainty in the form of a stable financial framework. They need to know that that beyond 2017 low carbon support will be available at the scale required to secure a world-leading industry and drive down costs for offshore wind power.”