Britain’s Crown Estate has reworked the timetable for its Round 4 offshore wind leasing round, announcing it would open the first stage of the invitation to tender (ITT) at the end of the month and extend the submission window from seven to ten weeks “to afford bidders additional time to respond” during the coronavirus pandemic.

The UK seabed landlord said the tender, which opened last September and is designed to underpin development of at least another 7GW of projects off England and Wales by 2030, would stick to the original 11-week period for the ITT “as set out in the information memorandum”.

“We are responding to the fast changing Covid-19 situation in the context of the Round 4 leasing programme, mindful of both the health and well-being of everyone involved and the need to ensure all bidders are treated fairly,” said a Crown Estate spokesperson.

“Our considered adjustments to some timings will help to allow additional time and flexibility for bidders, while ensuring minimal disruption to the overall programme timeline.

“We’ll continue to monitor the national and international situation closely and, where necessary, will provide further updates as the situation develops. In the event any further adjustments to the programme are required, we will provide as much advanced notice to bidders as possible.”

The spokesperson said the Crown Estate expected the next stage of the ITT would start “in the second half of September with the commencement of the bidding cycles [following] in October”.

Round 4 zones-in four areas for development – Dogger Bank, Eastern Regions and Northern Wales / Irish Sea, all of which already feature heavily in the country’s offshore wind plans, and South East England, where the door is being opened onto maritime acreage off the south coast – to add to the UK’s existing 9GW-plus of operating offshore wind assets – the largest in the world. Another 4.4GW are already under construction. A map showing the areas can be viewed here .

The UK built-out some 1.7GW of offshore wind capacity in 2019, over half of total added off Europe in a record-setting year of construction, according to statistics from industry advocacy body WindEurope.