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Home » The Huge Economic Potential Of Floating Wind Farms In The Celtic Sea

The Huge Economic Potential Of Floating Wind Farms In The Celtic Sea

The UK is a windy place. By some measures, the windiest country in Europe with 40% of Europe’s wind blowing over us at any time. Perfect for producing clean, green energy from wind.

Our wind power industry has grown hugely in recent decades – we now produce about 600 times more energy from wind than twenty years ago. And this is only going to grow, which is great news for South Wales and the South West of England, which have the potential to harness the benefits of this growth.

The Celtic Sea will be incredibly important in the future of offshore wind. It’s a large expanse of sea off the coast of South Wales and South West England, stretching out to Ireland and the Atlantic. It is also deep. Too deep to build traditional wind turbines – which are fixed to the seabed – and so far, hasn’t been suitable for commercial wind farms.

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But as knowledge and expertise has improved, developers are pioneering floating offshore wind farms. These are giant wind turbines built on floating platforms the size of football pitches, anchored by cables to the sea floor many miles out to sea, where they benefit from stronger winds. They are truly impressive, although much less visible from shore.

Our role at The Crown Estate is to manage land and the seabed on behalf of the nation, creating long-term value for the country. One way we do this is by sustainably developing the seabed to produce green energy, drive economic growth and create jobs, in turn helping the UK to decarbonise, strengthen our energy security and power our economy.

We must also make sure our precious marine environment is protected. This doesn’t just mean managing any environmental impacts from offshore wind farms, but actively working to have a positive impact on sea life and marine natural habitats, so that they and the livelihoods that depend on them can thrive.

We’re just beginning the first leasing process for the Celtic Sea, starting initially with three sites that will become home to new floating wind farms.

As the first large wind farms of this type and size in England and Wales, they will come with an unprecedented engineering challenge. But new technology at sea means new onshore opportunities, with the potential for a transformative impact on jobs, skills and investment in the areas surrounding the Celtic Sea.

We commissioned research to look at the supply chain requirements needed to support the development of these windfarms, and what this means in terms of skills, jobs and economic impact, both locally and for the UK as a whole.

The wind farms, which should generate enough electricity to power four million homes, will need around 260 giant turbines, more than 1,000 anchors and enough cables at 900km to stretch nearly all the way from Penzance to John o’ Groats. These will need manufacturing, transporting and assembling before being floated out to sea.

This could potentially create more than 5,000 UK jobs and boost our economy by £1.4bn. Serious numbers and the opportunity is even greater if we include related products or services and future leasing rounds. If we can realise this potential, the benefits will have a major impact, not just nationally, but on the local communities around the Celtic Sea, where the platforms could likely be assembled and whose ports and manufacturing will be essential to developing these sites.

Of course there are challenges with current gaps in the market, creating opportunities for new supply chain and infrastructure development. The research reveals what’s needed if we want to make the most of these opportunities – from ports to ships to electricity connections – and there are hurdles we will need to overcome to be successful.

At The Crown Estate we aim to catalyse the nation’s transition to green energy, create jobs and investment across the country and protect and enhance our precious nature and environment. We know the UK’s success to date in renewable energy can’t be taken for granted and we need to do more than ever before.

That’s why we are creating a future delivery route map for both nature and energy at sea, investing millions to support the environment and to speed up the acceleration of offshore wind, and why we’re also supporting more value onshore from activities offshore, including measures to create new skills and jobs and a fund dedicated to supporting the UK’s supply chain businesses to grow.

We know from speaking to governments, businesses and other partners across Wales and the south west that there is the ambition to make this a real success, even a generational game changer, not just in how we power our homes, but in jobs and the regional economy.

But it can’t be done by one player alone, it will take a concerted effort by all involved to write the next exciting chapter in the UK’s clean energy story. After all, what’s the point of being Europe’s windiest country if we don’t make the most of it?