UK plans leasing process for up to 4GW of floating offshore wind in Celtic Sea

Auction regulator Crown Estate unveils details of plan to support both industrial-scale and smaller projects

One project already planned for the Celtic Sea, Erebus, will feature turbines installed on Principle Power’s WindFloat foundations (above)

UK seabed landlord the Crown Estate has confirmed it wants to unlock up to 4GW of floating offshore wind capacity in the Celtic Sea off the south-western coasts of England and Wales.

It will focus on two project categories: early-commercial scale projects of 300-350MW, and full-commercial scale projects of up to 1GW. 

The regulator expects to award leasing rights by the end of 2023 ahead of projects being commissioned from 2030.

Plans for the leasing round were first announced in March.

The goal is to power homes with clean energy while creating opportunities for significant new investment in jobs, skills and infrastructure, the Crown Estate explained.

“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,” said Huub den Rooijen, managing director of marine at the Crown Estate.

It aims to roll out the process at a pace and scale that will enable supply chain and infrastructure development while benefiting the local area and the wider country, it stated.

The Crown Estate will conduct an integrated spatial design and habitats regulations assessment (HRA) ahead of the market tender. Identifying key environmental issues at the earliest opportunity will help to “de-risk investment, minimise environmental risk, and streamline the overall programme”, it explained.

A trio of projects approved earlier this year will form part of the HRA assessment.

Early involvement with stakeholders such as the electricity system operator to support a coordinated grid solution for floating wind projects will help accelerate grid development and mitigate impacts on communities onshore.

“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,” said Dan McGrail, chief executive of industry body RenewableUK.

“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,” he added. 

Crown Estate engagement with market and stakeholders on the floating wind programme 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.