Scaling up offshore wind generation could help Wales meet its renewable energy and decarbonisation targets, as well as deliver local economic stimulus, says a new report.
The report, Future Potential for Offshore Wind in Wales, produced by the Carbon Trust for the Welsh Government, delivers a series of recommendations to policymakers to capitalise on the clean growth potential of offshore windfarms.
Currently, 48% of Welsh energy consumption is supplied from renewable technologies. The report estimates that an additional 2 GW of offshore wind power could be delivered by just 2-3 projects in Wales, contributing over two-thirds of Wales’ 70% renewable energy target by 2030 and putting Wales on course to achieve its carbon reduction goal of at least 80% by 2050.
Wales is a strategically important net exporter of power to the UK grid, generating more than double the electricity it consumes. Historically the majority of this energy generation has been based on fossil fuels. However, the combination of an ageing coal and gas fleet, and the introduction of ambitious decarbonisation targets, is opening opportunities for cost-competitive clean energy industries, like offshore wind.
Despite limited offshore wind activity in recent years, new seabed leasing and site extensions administered by The Crown Estate are set to open new opportunities for offshore wind development in Wales.
Relatively shallow waters off North Wales, in particular, are expected to be attractive for near-term development, while deeper waters off Pembrokeshire hold considerable long-term potential for floating offshore wind technology.
In addition to achieving clean energy targets, offshore wind has the potential to deliver considerable investment and associated socio-economic benefits to Wales. Harnessing its natural resources could also leverage Wales’ rich maritime and industrial heritage to create opportunities for Welsh businesses, particularly for windfarm operation and maintenance. With sufficient market volume, Wales could also attract major overseas suppliers to establish local manufacturing facilities, as exemplified by a recent investment decision from Prysmian to supply submarine cable cores from its facility in Wrexham.
As such, the report outlines a series of key recommendations to government to improve the attractiveness of projects in Wales for inward investment. This includes actively engaging with The Crown Estate and prospective developers to help secure new leases in Welsh waters, working with developers and the local supply chain to increase the level of Welsh content, and derisking the development process through participation in industry-wide initiatives to address consenting barriers.
Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths said, “This report by the Carbon Trust provides us with a greater understanding of opportunities in Wales for the sustainable development of offshore wind for the future.
“We realise the potential of offshore wind to help Wales meet its decarbonisation targets and renewable energy targets. We will now consider the recommendations from the report and continue our engagement with the Crown Estate on the potential of new leasing in Wales.”
Carbon Trust manager Rhodri James said, “Having initially pioneered offshore wind development with the UK’s first commercial windfarm at North Hoyle in 2004, a limited project pipeline has constrained opportunities for Wales in recent years.
“However, upcoming site extensions and seabed leasing will create new opportunities for Wales to harness its abundant offshore wind resource to deliver clean, renewable power to consumers. If projects can be secured, they could play a pivotal role in meeting Wales and the UK’s renewable energy and decarbonisation goals, as well as create economic benefits for local businesses and communities.”