The list of successful consortias in to develop the nine zones will be announced by the Crown Estate, in the project, which is the most ambitious of its kind in the world. The prime minister is expected to use the event to promote the potential economic benefits of the massive building works.
Bidders, which include the UK’s big six energy suppliers, are being judged on their financial resources, expertise and safety record.
Many developers are privately sceptical about whether all the projects will be built by 2020 as planned because of the huge logistical and financial challenges involved. Dozens of smaller projects – including the London Array – have been delayed because of funding problems in recent years.
The projects will be bigger than anything which exists today in the UK or elsewhere. They will be further away from the coast and in deeper waters than existing offshore projects, making them more difficult and expensive to build and operate.
The biggest zone is at Dogger Bank, about 100km off the north east coast, where wind farms with a capacity of 10gw – enough to power 10m homes – are planned, at an estimated cost of more than £30bn.
Successful applicants will carry out further scoping work to decide where exactly to build the farms before submitting planning applications. Construction is not expected to start until 2014 at the earliest.
But the Crown Estate will not require developers to source a proportion of the turbines and other components from domestic manufacturers unlike other countries, including Spain and China.
The paucity of Britain’s low carbon industry was exposed last year, when Dutch firm Vestas closed England’s only turbine manufacturing plant.
A spokeswoman for the Crown Estate said the government body, which owns the UK’s seabed, was holding a supply chain roadshow for British manufacturers around the country, starting later this month. Working with regional development authorities, companies will be informed what components will be needed by the energy companies to help British industry benefit from the construction programme.