By Tom Fabian, Marine Energy Wales FLOW Project Manager.
Last week I was invited to visit the world’s largest FLOW windfarm, located 15km off the coast of Aberdeen. The Kincardine windfarm consists of five 9.5MW turbines anchored in water 60-80 metres deep and is capable of powering 35,000 homes in Scotland.
The visit was organised by Blue Gem Wind (a joint venture between Simply Blue Group and TotalEnergies) to showcase the technology they plan to use on their 100MW Erebus demonstration project, planned for completion in 2026. When built, Erebus will become the world’s largest floating offshore wind farm, and the first FLOW project in the Celtic Sea, providing green energy to over 90,000 homes per year.
FLOW is the next revolution in renewable energy. The current generation of fixed offshore windfarms are limited to water depths of up to 60 metres deep. The Celtic Sea, like 80% of the world’s offshore wind resources, is much deeper than this. Only by siting turbines on floating, mobile platforms far out to sea will we be able to access the best resources and generate the power needed to reach net zero by 2050.
Offshore wind is poised to become the backbone of our future renewable energy system, and it presents great long term economic, social and environmental opportunities for the Celtic Sea, through the manufacture, installation, operation and maintenance of FLOW windfarm developments. It is predicted that the first gigawatt produced in the Celtic Sea could deliver over 3000 jobs and £682 million in local supply chain opportunities by 2030.
However, reaching this goal will not be without challenges. Infrastructure across the UK is not ready to support the required growth in this industry; our workforce does not have enough people suitably qualified; and the planning approval process is long and costly which presents uncertainty to developers and investors alike.
Throughout the discussions held at TotalEnergies’ UK Offshore Wind Hub in Aberdeen, it was clear that these challenges were too great for individual organisations to overcome. The representatives present from across Wales, including the Welsh Government, Pembrokeshire County Council, Pembrokeshire College, Port of Milford Haven, ORE Catapult, and RenewableUK, found that the visit was a fantastic opportunity to establish and foster positive working relationships. Collaboration is key to maximise opportunity for the region and deliver a new low carbon industry for Wales.
Through the Celtic Sea Developer Alliance, MEW aims to facilitate this. By providing a unified voice and single point of contact for FLOW developer interests, we work to influence government policy to advance the FLOW sector and promote the wider Celtic Sea ambition at every level, from political, to business and community engagement. We work collaboratively to help progress the UK’s drive to net zero, a target which FLOW will play a crucial part in achieving.