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RenewableUK Cymru welcomes more floating wind to Wales

24

March, 2021

RenewableUK Cymru has welcomed today’s announcement from The Crown Estate that will allow more floating wind farm projects to be developed off the Welsh coast.  

Speaking to BBC Wales today, Rhys Wyn Jones, Director of RenewableUK Cymru, described the announcement as “significant and exciting” for Wales.

The work to design and deliver a new new leasing opportunity for early commercial-scale floating wind projects in the Celtic Sea could lead to thousands of jobs along the south west coast of Wales.  The leasing process will focus on projects of circa 300MW in scale – up to 3 times larger than any rights previously awarded to floating wind in the UK – demonstrating a new frontier for the sector and an important step towards the Government’s ambition to deliver 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:  

  • There is strong interest in new floating wind rights, from a capable and motivated pool of potential market participants 
  • 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 
  • There is appetite to now develop projects that are around 300MW 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. 
  • Strong interest in project locations in the Celtic Sea – the waters in the region around the South Wales coast and the South West peninsular.

Reflecting the findings from the market engagement process, the leasing process will focus on maximising the opportunity for new clean electricity, while ensuring that environmental protection of our precious marine resource is at the heart of the approach.  The Crown Estate will provide further details on leasing design in the coming months. 

This 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.

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. 

Huub den Rooijen, Director of The Crown Estate’s Energy, Minerals and Infrastructure portfolio 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.   

“Today’s announcement is an important step in providing the market the confidence it needs to plan and invest, bringing with it huge opportunities for jobs and the supply chain.” 

Welsh Secretary, Simon Hart, said: “Wales’ natural resources underpinned the industrial revolutions of the past and our rich marine and offshore wind resources will be at the forefront of the next, green industrial revolution.

“This announcement will create opportunities that are up to 3 times larger than any rights previously awarded to floating wind in the UK, putting the Celtic Sea at the forefront of the green job revolution that comes with this technology.

“Providing investors with opportunities to make the most of our natural resources in a way that unlocks future technologies will be crucial as we pave the way to reach net zero emissions by 2050.”

Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths, Welsh Government said: “We are committed to building a green and prosperous Wales for our future generations. We welcome The Crown Estate’s intent to open the Celtic Sea for early-commercial scale floating wind development.  We look forward to working with them and our partners to ensure any developments maximise local job creation while responding to the climate crisis, building a vibrant new sector here in Wales.”

Rhys Wyn Jones, said: “Today’s announcement paves the way for a burgeoning, commercial-scale floating wind industry in the Celtic Sea from which Wales stands to benefit not only in meeting our net zero obligations and our targets for producing renewable energy, but also economically as well.  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.”