The Crown Estate is commencing work to design and deliver a new leasing opportunity for early commercial-scale floating wind projects in the Celtic Sea
The leasing process will focus on projects of circa 300 MW in scale – up to three times larger than any rights previously awarded to floating wind in the UK. The plan is an important first step towards delivering on the government’s target of 1 GW of floating wind by 2030.
The news follows The Crown Estate’s invitation to the market, in December 2020, to come forward with views on how best to accelerate the development of floating wind in the UK, including welcoming feedback on the potential scale and location of future rights and the best route to help build the related supply chain.
Since then, The Crown Estate has received and reviewed input from over 30 interested market participants across industry and other key stakeholder groups, with feedback confirming that there is strong interest in new floating wind rights, from a capable and motivated pool of potential market participants.
The Crown Estate said it was clear that the market is confident that current floating wind technology will allow the sector to move to the next phase and deploy early commercial-scale projects, and that there is an appetite to develop projects that are around 300 MW in size, moving the sector onto an ‘early commercial’ phase, with a desire for a pipeline of opportunities that helps to continue to build market confidence. Consultations also indicated there is strong interest in project locations in the Celtic Sea – the waters in the region around the south Wales coast and the southwest peninsular.
Reflecting the findings from the market engagement process, the leasing process will focus on maximising the opportunity for clean electricity, while ensuring environmental protection of the marine environment. The Crown Estate will provide further details on leasing design in the coming months.
The leasing process builds on The Crown Estate’s work to support the development of floating wind technology through its test and demonstration opportunity, which last year awarded rights to developers Blue Gem Wind, for the proposed 96-MW Erebus floating wind project, in the Welsh waters of the Celtic Sea.
Alongside its work to design this early commercial-scale floating wind leasing opportunity, The Crown Estate will also explore how best to support pre-commercial, smaller projects that will continue to be an important part of developing new technologies for a range of seabed conditions and locations. It will set out its approach alongside the broader leasing process in the coming months.
The Crown Estate is also exploring ways in which it can promote more collaboration across the sector to accelerate development and maximise its economic and social value – through supply chain and other benefits, especially to those communities local to projects. As part of this, The Crown Estate is considering what other enabling actions it could take to facilitate the sector, shared infrastructure that will be vital for supporting a sector that can be a critical part of the UK’s net-zero economy.
The Crown Estate director of energy, minerals and infrastructure Huub den Rooijen said, “Floating offshore wind is the next frontier of the UK’s clean energy ambitions, offering an exciting opportunity to deliver more green energy, in new areas offshore.
“As a technology that will be important for the UK’s pathway to net zero, we are focused on helping to unlock its potential in a way that is sensitive to our precious marine habitats, considers interactions with other uses of the sea, and is compatible with other critical processes such as the tender for Leasing Round 4.”
Energy Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said floating offshore projects “are going to be vital” to unlocking the full potential of natural resources and ensuring that the UK remains a world-leader in offshore wind. Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said the announcement will put the Celtic Sea at the forefront of the green job revolution.
RenewableUK head of policy and regulation Rebecca Williams said floating wind in the Celtic Sea will help the UK to maintain its global lead in the technology. “There is a huge appetite in industry to deploy this innovative technology. Floating wind is essential for the UK to reach its legally-binding net-zero emissions target by 2050 – we can’t get there without it.”