The Crown Estate has published further detail on its plans for floating wind leasing in the Celtic Sea, confirming its ambition to unlock up to 4GW of new clean energy capacity in England and Wales and help establish a new industrial sector for the UK.

The leasing process will deliver enough new capacity to provide clean power for almost four million more homes, in support of the UK’s net zero target, as well as creating opportunities for significant new investment in jobs, skills, and infrastructure.

The proposals, published today, follow engagement with government, stakeholders and the market, and include: 

  • A focus on two key project categories – early-commercial scale projects (of circa 300-350MW); and full-commercial scale projects (of up to 1GW).
  • Leasing designed at a pace and scale to support supply chain and infrastructure development, helping to underpin a sustainable future for the sector, and ensure Wales, the South West, and the wider UK benefit from the industrial opportunity.
  • A revised approach to spatial design and Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA), which will see The Crown Estate conduct an integrated spatial design and Plan-Level HRA ahead of market tender, to identify key environmental issues at the earliest opportunity, helping to de-risk investment, minimise environmental risk, and streamline the overall programme.
  • Work with Electricity System Operator and others to support a coordinated grid solution for floating wind projects, in line with the work underway through the Offshore Transmission Network Review, to accelerate grid development and mitigate impacts on communities onshore.

The leasing process could see rights awarded by the end of 2023, with projects delivered from 2030 into the early part of the next decade.

The proposals for floating wind leasing in the Celtic Sea reflect The Crown Estate’s evolving approach to leasing offshore, which is designed to help address the strategic challenges facing renewable energy projects in our increasingly complex marine environment.  These include the need to mitigate cumulative pressures on coastal and marine habitats, deliver socio-economic benefits for communities, while minimising the impact of infrastructure, and improve coordination with other industries and activities at sea.

The approach is also designed to help support the sustainable development of the floating wind sector in the UK over the long-term, creating a pipeline of opportunities at a pace and scale which creates the confidence needed to support project competitiveness, enable continuing market and technology development, and unlock growth and investment in the UK supply chain and supporting infrastructure, such as ports and grid connections.

In order to facilitate these outcomes, The Crown Estate will now begin the next stages of its engagement with market and stakeholders on the floating wind programme, which will take place in two phases over the winter of 2021/22.

  • Phase one of this engagement will focus on the spatial design, gathering data and evidence to help inform the location of project sites.
  • Phase two will invite views on the design of the market tender and the wider considerations of the programme, including on supply chain, ports and grid, as well as community benefits, such as skills and employment.

To ensure a coordinated approach to assessing potential environmental impacts, the Llŷr and White Cross test and demonstration scale projects (announced earlier this year) will form part of the Plan-Level Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) for floating wind in the Celtic Sea. 

 

Huub den Rooijen, Managing Director of Marine at The Crown Estate:

“Floating wind technology offers a powerful opportunity to open up the renewable energy resources of the Celtic Sea, helping to tackle the climate crisis with additional clean power and ignite a new industrial sector.

“We are focused on realising this potential in a way that supports the development of the regional supply chain and infrastructure, protects our marine environment, and harnesses the opportunity for local communities.

“We look forward to working closely with UK and Welsh government, regional authorities, the market and stakeholders to establish this emerging sector and reinforce the UK’s position as the world leaders in offshore wind.”

 

Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change Minister Greg Hands said: 

“The UK is a world leader in offshore wind deployment and floating technology is going to be vital in ensuring we meet our target of delivering 1GW of floating offshore wind by 2030 – a key part of the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan.

“Today’s proposals by The Crown Estate to expand our offshore wind capacity will help unlock the full potential of the UK’s seas, creating high-skilled jobs and driving investment – all while supporting the delivery of clean energy to millions of homes across the country.”  

 

Julie James, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Climate Change, said:

“The opportunity for floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea offers substantial renewable energy to support a net zero Wales and puts us at the forefront of this fast developing industry.

“We welcome this announcement, it offers certainty for developers and helps us optimise the resources from the Celtic Sea while guarding against unacceptable impacts on the marine environment.

“We look forward to working constructively with The Crown Estate to ensure this investment delivers economic and community benefits for Wales.”

 

Dan McGrail, Chief Executive, RenewableUK said:

“This announcement further reinforces the critical role floating wind will play in achieving the scale of installed capacity which will be required to deliver a cost-effective Net Zero. 

“It is a huge economic opportunity as well as an industrial challenge, requiring short and longer-term enabling actions ahead of the arrival of the first large scale projects – to ensure the UK capitalises fully on ‘first mover’ advantage. 

Within this, the Celtic Sea has a massive role to play and we very much welcome The Crown Estate signalling the scale and pace at which this opportunity will develop – maximising financial, social and environmental benefits to the Celtic Sea area and the UK.”