The Crown Estate has announced its first major investment in surveys to support the proposal to unlock valuable new clean energy capacity through floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea. The awarding of the first contracts marks an important step in what is anticipated to be a multi-million pound series of technical and environmental surveys around potential locations for new floating wind farms.
The Crown Estate, which manages the seabed around England, Wales and Northern Ireland, has set out ambitious plans to deliver an initial 4GW of energy capacity in the Celtic Sea by 2035, with the region assessed to have the potential to accommodate up to 24GW by 2045. This would be one of the first uses of new floating wind technology on a commercial scale, with further rapid growth expected as the technology, supply chain and infrastructure mature.
By investing in these surveys at an early stage and making the data freely available to successful bidders, The Crown Estate is aiming to accelerate the delivery of projects, making it easier for developers to take early decisions and manage risk, while supporting future project level Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) as part of the planning process.
Over the last year, The Crown Estate has been working with its technical advisors, alongside industry and other stakeholders, including statutory nature conservation bodies, to develop a programme of surveys which will deliver strong, reliable and useful datasets for developers. Precise specifications will be kept under review as the programme progresses, but will cover a range of important areas, including the geophysical and geotechnical properties of the seabed, wind, wave and current patterns, and marine wildlife.
As well as providing successful bidders with easy access to vital data and speeding up the development process, it is hoped the programme will avoid the need for developers to conduct additional surveys later in the process, while making best use of limited specialist survey resource.
Contracts have now been signed for the initial phase of metocean surveys, which look at wind, wave and current patterns, to begin in Spring 2023. The Crown Estate is progressing the procurement of the remaining surveys over the coming weeks and months, subject to further commercial discussions.
The Crown Estate is developing its leasing approach for the Celtic Sea floating offshore wind programme through close engagement with other key stakeholders, including but not limited to the UK and Welsh governments and industry, to understand their plans to drive investment in infrastructure, innovation and skills.
In October, The Crown Estate updated developers on how it intends to support the opportunities presented by floating wind in the Celtic Sea, including through early investment in pre-consent surveys and seeking to streamline the programme to accelerate the development of projects. Further work is underway to engage the market with a view to supporting such investment through supply chain requirements as part of the leasing tender process. The Crown Estate expects to provide further updates to developers in the first half of 2023 ahead of the official launch of the leasing tender.
Nicola Clay, Head of New Ventures, said:
“A successful floating wind market in the Celtic Sea will not only support the UK’s journey to net zero and strengthen our energy security, but can be the catalyst for new jobs, investment and supply chain opportunities. Ensuring these benefits are fully realised is a shared challenge, and The Crown Estate is committed to playing its part in supporting the growth of these important markets.
“Part of this is ensuring the swift deployment of this new technology, which is why we have been working across the industry to develop a programme of surveys that will ensure decisions are based on timely and robust data. The Crown Estate is uniquely placed to facilitate this sort of collective data-gathering, which will not only help maximise the growth of secure, affordable green energy, but also support the protection and restoration of marine ecosystems.
“We are also considering how else our proposals for The Celtic Sea can support the investment in supply chains and infrastructure that this new market will need. We have been clear this will form an integral part of the tender process for the upcoming leasing round, and we remain in dialogue with UK and Welsh governments to better understand their own approaches to supply chain development. By working together to address these challenges, we can put in place the foundations for clean energy and economic opportunity for generations to come.”
Tim Pick, Co-Chair of the Offshore Wind Acceleration Taskforce, said:
“The prospect of floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea is taking shape, with The Crown Estate working with government and industry to progress the leasing process and stimulate a sustainable approach to the supply chain. I welcome the news of the awarding of contracts for surveys at an early stage, since it will accelerate the process and allow developers to take full advantage of the data that the surveys generate.”
The Crown Estate is currently refining its broad ‘Areas of Search’ into a series of smaller Project Development Areas (PDAs). This work is ongoing, guided by engagement with stakeholders, including fishing communities and environmental groups.
In order to further accelerate the leasing process, the work to identify the final PDAs is being undertaken simultaneously with the plan-level Habitats Regulations Assessment, which assesses the potential impact of leasing plans on the most valuable environmental habitats in the UK, which make up the ‘UK National Network.’
Notes to editors
Based on developer feedback, The Crown Estate is ensuring that all datasets are reliable and useful with surveys focusing on the Project Development Areas for:
• Metocean (approved for Spring / Summer 2023)
o 12-month minimum campaign
o FLIDAR platform
o Passive acoustic monitoring
o Water properties measurement sensors
o Seabed acoustic doppler current profilers
• Geophysics (in procurement, for Spring/Summer 2023)
o Indicative PDA dataset at 300m line spacing
o Multibeam echosounder, side scan sonar, sub-bottom profiler, 2D multichannel seismic, magnetometer
o Additional survey lines as required in areas of significant interest
• Geotechnical (in procurement, for Summer 2023)
o Seabed unit, cone penetrometer tests
o Potential for borehole sampling and associated sample lab testing
• Birds and marine mammals (in procurement, estimated to start Spring 2023)
o Year 1 – aircraft campaign to provide EIA coverage of PDA’s
o Potential to acquire data to provide a regional Celtic Sea dataset
o Year 2 – a vessel-based campaign to compliment year 1 dataset
o Options to adjust scope and specification subject to the ongoing impact avian influenza
Following the issue of PDAs all survey scopes and specifications will be reviewed with The Crown Estate technical advisors, SNCBs, and NGOs.
All datasets will also be made freely available in due course, through The Crown Estate’s Marine Data Exchange, the world’s largest resource of marine industry survey data, research, and evidence. This contains over 200 terabytes of data, freely available online – it’s a key example of our 20 years of investment in marine data and evidence to drive positive change in the sustainable development of the seabed. This will complement other further survey work taking place in the area through initiatives such as The Crown Estate-funded Offshore Wind Evidence and Change Programme, with all data captured being stored in line with our approach to confidentiality, which we continue to refine alongside the sector.
To read more about our work in marine data and evidence, see here.