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Birmingham Post
Birmingham Post
Lauren Phillips

Crown Estate refines five areas mapped in Celtic Sea for floating offshore wind

The Crown Estate has revised the five areas off the coast of Cornwall and Wales ahead of its upcoming 4GW floating offshore wind leasing round in the Celtic Sea.

Following the five 'areas of search' mapped out in July, the independent property business has now reduced the size of zones two, three and four. It has also removed areas one and five from consideration altogether.

The new smaller areas of seabed where the wind farms may be built in future were announced after multiple rounds of engagement with stakeholders.

Read more: The story of Wales’ own oil company and plans to go green

In the coming months, the areas will be refined further into potential 'project development areas' within which the first generation of commercial-scale floating windfarms can be built. These will be open for competitive tender in mid-2023.

Work to identify these development areas is currently being undertaken alongside the plan-level Habitats Regulations Assessment, which assesses the potential impact of leasing on environmentally valuable habitats.

The Crown Estate said it will also conduct engineering and environmental surveys in advance of consenting, with a view to being able to supply data to successful bidders to accelerate delivery of their projects, potentially by many months.

It added that the process will continue to be "guided by continued engagement with stakeholders, including fishing communities and environmental groups".

The Celtic Sea programme is intended to provide 4GW of renewable energy capacity by 2035 (enough to power four million homes), with the region assessed to have the economic potential to accommodate up to an additional 20GW by 2045.

The programme aims to boost the UK's net zero ambitions as well as create jobs, skills and investment in Wales and the South West of England. Some predict up to 10,000 new jobs could be created from floating wind farm development in the Celtic Sea, with assembly work at Welsh ports and supply chain activities.

The Crown Estate has also updated developers on the principles of the tender process ahead of the leasing round to enable potential developers to form a consortia.

The leasing round is expected to have a stronger supply chain component and a focus on the social and environmental value of projects. As such developers, as part of their bid, will be expected to provide a plan of their early investment in support of an internationally competitive supply chain.

Submission of these plans, alongside other legal, financial and technical elements, will determine whether the companies qualify for proceeding to the final stage of the tender.

The Crown Estate said that developers who are successful in their bid will be expected to update their plans as they develop their projects, so that the authority and other stakeholders can understand how best to support supply chain development.

The final award of an "agreement for lease" for each site will be based on price offered, meaning greatest value delivered for the nation from the tender process.

The authority plans to confirm three seabeds for “test and demonstration” sites in the Celtic Sea for 2023 and to be active in the water by 2027. It said it is to "accelerate the leasing process where possible, recognising the importance of bringing floating wind on-stream as soon as possible".

Nicola Clay, head of new ventures marine for the Crown Estate, said: "This update marks another step towards developing floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea, refining the areas of search and outlining the 2023 tender process. Recognising the importance of a strong supply chain, we will be asking bidders to submit their supply chain plans as a key part of their bid.

"In an internationally competitive market, The Crown Estate will continue to facilitate investment in jobs, skills and infrastructure, so that communities neighbouring the Celtic Sea may benefit from the opportunities that a floating wind economy can generate."

Chief executive of RenewableUK Dan McGrail said: "This announcement is a key step forward in the roll-out of innovative floating wind projects in British waters. We particularly welcome the measures to ensure that the UK builds up a strong floating wind supply chain, and The Crown Estate's commitment to speed up the development process by carrying out vital environmental work early, as the industry had proposed."

He added: "The Celtic Sea projects will boost our position as a global leader in this cutting-edge technology, as well as enhancing our ability to generate vast amounts of clean electricity at low cost for consumers in the years ahead. The UK needs to pull out all the stops to unlock the vast potential of floating wind to strengthen our energy security, as well as bringing enormous industrial benefits in jobs, investment and opportunities to export our technology worldwide."

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