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Leasing process for floating wind farms in the Celtic Sea reaches first milestone


Plans to establish a new generation of floating offshore wind farms off the coast of South West England and South Wales have taken a step forward with the conclusion of one of the opening stages of the tender process for Offshore Wind Leasing Round 5.

Developers wishing to bid for one of three Project Development Areas (PDAs) have now submitted their responses to the Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ), which requires them to demonstrate their technical experience, as well as their legal and financial standing before progressing through the process.

The milestone comes as a major programme of marine surveys continues around proposed sites for the new windfarms, supported by a group of young seafarers taking their first steps into a maritime career.

A core objective of The Crown Estate’s leasing round is to support the establishment of a new supply chain and on-shore opportunities arising from a new floating wind industry in the Celtic Sea. This includes a clear focus on ports, which will have a critical role to play in the assembly of the new turbines as well their ongoing operation and maintenance.

Bidders who progress beyond the PQQ stage of the tender process will move forward to Invitation to Tender Stage 1 (ITT1), where they will be expected to set out their plans for delivering broader social and environmental value through their projects. This includes how they intend to work with ports, and demonstrate they have reached agreements with port operators to support the delivery of their proposed wind farms.

Floating offshore wind is a new technology that enables turbines to be mounted on floating platforms, before being towed out to sea and tethered to the seabed. This means that new areas of deeper water can be used for the generation of renewable energy, and can be located further out to sea where the wind patterns are stronger and more reliable.

A new generation of the marine workforce

As part of its work to de-risk and accelerate the deployment of new floating wind technology, The Crown Estate has been carrying out an extensive programme of marine and aerial surveys around the planned locations of the new windfarms. In recent weeks, vessels have been deployed with metocean equipment which will be gathering important data about wind, wave and current patterns, while a geophysics survey vessel has been looking at the geology both on and beneath the seabed.

To support this work, The Crown Estate has also signed a partnership with Sea Ranger Service – a social enterprise originally launched in the Netherlands, which aims to give young people from a range of backgrounds a route into maritime careers. At a recent event in Port Talbot, eight new recruits completed their initial training, ahead of setting sail to monitor sea birds and other marine animals in the Celtic Sea.

Expected timetable

The Crown Estate first set out plans in 2021 to establish a new market for floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea. In December 2023 it published an Information Memorandum with further details of its Offshore Wind Leasing Round 5, ahead of the formal start of the tender process in February this year.

The Crown Estate expects to inform bidders of the outcome of the PQQ in early July, ahead of the start of ITT1 process in August.

The final stage of the tender process (ITT2) will see remaining successful developers participate in a “rising clock” auction for the three PDAs. This is expected to take place in Spring 2025.

The process is expected to conclude with the awarding of Agreements for Lease in Summer 2025.

Supply chain

In May, The Crown Estate’s innovative Supply Chain Accelerator launched with an initial £10m round of funding for businesses looking to establish UK projects that could support the development of a new UK supply chain capability for floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea.

Expressions of Interest can be submitted now and the application process opens formally in mid-June, closing at the end of July.