AN AREA off the Dorset coastline has been named as one of the best places in Britain to build the next generation of offshore wind farms.

The zone - which stretches west from Portland across Lyme Bay towards Devon - has been identified as one of 11 likely locations for new turbines by the Crown Estate.

The scheme is part of plans to help Britain meet its target of securing 15 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Dorset Coast Forum bosses welcomed the news - but warned that consulting all coastal users would be crucial.

Rob Hastings, from the Crown Estate, revealed the 11 zones at the British Wind Energy Association conference in London.

He said construction on the Dorset area and the other locations - which include spots in the North Sea and off Wales - would need to start by 2014.

Mr Hastings said work would begin now on deciding which companies should lead development of the zones, to get them operational by 2020.

They will be handed to consortiums rather than single firms because of the size and cost of the scheme - and the contracts will be awarded by next summer.

Mr Hastings said: "The challenge is to get 25 gigawatts installed and operating in UK waters by 2020.

"If we don't achieve that it's unlikely we will reach our 2020 target of 15 per cent renewable energy."

British Wind Energy Association chairman Adam Bruce said the new plans - the third phase in establishing a network of marine wind farms - would be an environmental revolution'.

"This year the UK will become the world's largest generator of offshore wind energy," he said.

At least 30 per cent of Britain's electricity will need to come from wind farms and other renewable installations to meet 2020 targets. Just three per cent comes from such sources at present.

The Confederation of British Industry says energy firms will have to invest around £60 billion over the next 12 years to build enough wind farms to meet the demands.

Dorset Coast Forum secretary Ken Buchan said there was strong support' for renewable energy sources within his organisation.

"With regards to offshore wind farms I think it's important that there's a significant amount of consultation," he said.

"It's fine to identify areas that are physically capable of taking turbines like this but there's more to it than that.

"There's no opposition to the potential of offshore wind farms but there are landscape and seascape issues that need to be addressed."

Mr Buchan added: "There needs to be consideration for the commercial fisheries and other users of the coast before there's any definite action.

"It's paramount we consider the potential impact on people's experiences when they come to the Dorset coast."