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Floating offshore wind turbines

Supply chain for Celtic Sea floating wind farms could power 5,000 new jobs and a £1.4bn boost for the economy


Up to 5,300 new jobs and up to £1.4 billion could be generated for the UK economy by galvanising the supply chain and infrastructure opportunities arising from the development of new floating wind farms off the coast of South Wales and the South West England, according to new research commissioned by The Crown Estate.

The independent study, The Celtic Sea Blueprint, conducted by Lumen Energy & Environment, looked at the minimum requirements needed to deliver the first three projects outlined by The Crown Estate in December. It also examined the gaps, such as ports deep enough for handling the giant turbines, vessels to service the sites, and export cables to transport electricity to land.

Addressing these gaps will be critical to establishing these first windfarms, and, with a further pipeline of windfarms expected in the region as well as rising global demand, the opportunities for ports, manufacturers and the wider supply chain could be far greater. Action is required now, locally and nationally, to capture the opportunities associated with this fast, growing innovative new technology.

The first three floating windfarms, which will be able to generate up to 4.5GW of electricity – enough to power more than four million homes, will be some of the largest in the world. And, as the first in the UK outside of Scotland, mark a new phase for offshore wind in England and Wales. The South West / Wales has the potential to be at the forefront of driving this development with opportunities from port infrastructure to significant SME support across the supply chain.

In particular, the research highlighted opportunities for the region from the assembly of the large floating platforms needed to house the turbines, building on the existing local high-skilled welding and concrete expertise and existing local suppliers. It highlighted opportunities for local ports across the region from the assembly, transport and storage of parts during the construction and life-cycle of the sites, while the region’s strong shipping expertise could also be of benefit during the development stages. More generally, the first three windfarms alone will need:

  • More than 260 turbines spread across the three sites, each some 300 up metres tall, around the same height as The Shard, on a floating platform about the size of a football pitch

  • More than 1000 anchors to secure the floating turbines to the seabed, with at least 300km of mooring lines

  • Nearly 900km of cables (enough to stretch four times the length of Wales / nearly enough to stretch from Lands End to John O Groats) to link up turbines and connect them to the electricity network

Gus Jaspert, Managing Director of Marine at The Crown Estate said: “Floating wind is an incredibly exciting opportunity for the region and the nation. It will boost clean, electricity generation by unlocking the deeper waters of the Celtic Sea not previously accessible by fixed turbines and providing greater access to wind blowing from the west.

“The benefits though are even more wide-ranging, opening up wider local and national opportunities for manufacturers and the supply chain, from cables to platform construction to port development, creating thousands of new jobs and skills.

“But there are also gaps in the market. If the UK is to make the most of the economic and environmental opportunities from the transition to renewable energy, we must be on the front foot, acting now to develop the supply chain capability, skills and infrastructure needed to establish not just these windfarms but future floating windfarms in the Celtic Sea and elsewhere. Using this research, we want to work with the industry, trade organisations, local communities and across governments to make sure we are harnessing all the available opportunities and supporting the UK in continuing to accelerate its world-leading position in offshore wind.”

RenewableUK’s Chief Executive Dan McGrail, Co-Chair the Floating Offshore Wind Taskforce said: “The Celtic Sea Blueprint shows that floating wind can deliver immense industrial growth in the south west of England, South Wales and throughout the UK, with multi-billion pound opportunities to build up new supply chains and create thousands of jobs during the construction phase alone, especially in coastal communities.

“Some of the world’s biggest floating wind farms will be built in the Celtic Sea, with turbines twice as tall as Blackpool Tower, platforms the size of football pitches and hundreds of kilometres of hi-tech cables. We need to ensure that we’re making that massive kit here, by upgrading ports so that we have the capacity to manufacture and assemble these enormous structures. If we don’t seize this opportunity to capitalise on our global lead in floating wind, other countries will do so, as the international race to develop world-class supply chains for this innovative technology is accelerating fast”.

Jess Hooper, Director for RenewableUK Cymru added: “Manufacturing is part of the Welsh national story. We have a proud industrial work heritage, a skilled manufacturing base and strong links with the universities and colleges which feed into this industry. Retaining, upskilling and transitioning our local workforce towards offshore wind is the single biggest opportunity on the horizon to provide high quality employment for decades to come.

“Only by developing our port capabilities in South Wales can we do this. Our ports are paramount in attracting the right anchor companies that will safeguard against bottlenecks in project delivery and develop our own local supply chain capabilities. Investment in the region now is critical to delivering on that 4.5GW of offshore wind at the scale and pace required to meet our net zero targets.”

The Crown Estate is now focussed on bringing key parties together to create an action plan for developing supply chain and infrastructure capabilities in the region and across the UK. This includes looking at funding and investment options to accelerate supply chain projects, including a pilot £10 million fund from The Crown Estate to support early-stage projects looking to capture some of the opportunities identified in the research.

Identifying the supply chain and infrastructure requirements is part of a series of measures The Crown Estate has taken to evolve its approach in leasing these new sites. To make sure the environment is protected as net zero is delivered as well as creating more certainty and helping to de-risk the leasing, planning and consent stages, The Crown Estate has invested in extensive spatial planning and surveys to map the environmental and physical properties of the windfarm sites, conducted environmental assessments and begun work with the Electricity System Operator on connections to the UK’s energy grid up front in the process.

It is also introducing a series of contractual commitments for developers to help drive positive social and environmental impacts for the region focused on jobs, skills and training, environmental benefits and working with local communities. In November 2023, The Crown Estate also welcomed the Government’s commitment in the Autumn Statement to modernise its investment powers. This includes allowing it to borrow for the first time and therefore invest more across its business to have an even greater impact, for example through supporting the continued sustainable acceleration of offshore wind for the benefit of the nation. The formal tender process for the floating wind farms starts at the end of the month.

The Celtic Sea Blueprint