RenewableUK and Scottish Renewables have released a joint report which sets out the industry’s vision for the UK’s floating offshore wind sector
Floating Wind – The UK Industry Ambition states that floating wind technology is necessary for the UK to reach its legally-binding net zero carbon emissions target by 2050 and to fulfil Scotland’s commitment to achieve the same five years earlier, by 2045.
The industry estimates that floating wind can support 17,000 UK jobs by 2050, particularly in coastal communities in England, Scotland and Wales, delivering £33.6Bn (US$43.5Bn) of economic activity (gross valued added). This represents a return of £15 (US$19) for each £1 invested in early stage support.
To date, most offshore wind has been built using solid foundations directly attached to the seabed, with turbines installed on top. In deeper waters, however, this is not an effective solution so the industry is adapting technology from North Sea oil and gas rigs, where floating platforms are tethered to the seabed. The world’s first floating offshore windfarm, Hywind, was installed in 2017 off the coast of Peterhead in Scotland and another, Kincardine, is under construction in Scottish waters.
The report highlights the fact that, thanks to the UK’s global lead in this innovative technology, it is in a unique position to export floating wind worldwide to emerging markets such as China, Japan, Norway, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan and the US. For UK exporters, this market is expected to be worth at least £230M (US$298M) a year by 2031.
The study suggests the government should use the contract for difference auction framework to create a specific pot of funding for innovative technologies like floating wind. This will secure an increase in new capacity from 32 MW now to up to 2 GW by 2030, making floating wind cost-competitive by that date.
The report also calls for potential sites to be made available all around the UK, and for government and industry to invest jointly in new infrastructure supporting the development of floating wind as part of the UK’s Industrial Strategy.
A clear pipeline of commercial projects will bring about cost reduction through economies of scale. The ScotWind leasing process provides an opportunity for developing floating wind in Scottish waters.
RenewableUK head of policy and regulation Rebecca Williams, said “The renewable energy sector has built its success on delivering innovation; floating wind is a prime example of what we can achieve. Our vision is to do much more at scale, securing further cost reduction and much-needed new capacity.
“As we build even further out to sea into deeper waters, floating wind will unlock new areas for us to make use of our technology. We want to work with government to maximise the extraordinary opportunities offered by this cutting-edge technology in which the UK leads the world.”
Scottish Renewables director of policy Morag Watson said, “Scotland’s offshore energy experience and our deepwater wind resource means we’re already a world leader in floating wind – technology which will be necessary to meet our net-zero emissions target and offers the most cost-effective pathway to delivering more than 50 GW of offshore wind in UK waters."
Overall, the UK has the potential to install 75 GW of offshore wind capacity (including floating wind) by 2050, up from 8.5 GW now, to reach net zero by the most cost-effective pathway.