By Huub den Rooijen, Managing Director Marine, The Crown Estate
Over the last two decades, the UK’s offshore wind sector has grown from a standing start to one that generated enough electricity to power one in every three homes in the UK last year, with government ambition to power almost half the country over the next decade.
This astonishing feat has been made possible by developers, operators and supply chains that over this period have successfully delivered larger turbines, more robust installation methods, smarter and safer working conditions, and a myriad of products and services that have turned this into the most vibrant energy sector on the planet. The resulting demand for seabed space is greater than ever before. This brings real economic opportunities that we can only unlock by taking a systems perspective. We are all aware of the need to address the timely delivery of onshore grid, the challenge of integrating environmental net gain, the importance of ensuring a sustainable future for the fishing sector, and the overriding requirement to ensure that society as a whole benefits from the riches of our offshore wind resources.
Solving these problems is critical to enable continued growth; data and evidence are required to inform design decisions and the inevitable trade-offs. The UK holds an ace in The Crown Estate’s publicly available, first-of-its-kind Data Exchange (MDE).
Launched in 2013, our aim was to make offshore wind sector data widely and freely available, to engender the most informed discussions and decisions. Based on an open data model, the MDE now contains over 220 terabytes of data from over 70 offshore projects.
Thanks to our marine customers sharing data and evidence collated throughout the lifecycle of their projects, it includes data from over 2,600 survey campaigns collated across the offshore wind, marine aggregates and wave and tidal sectors. It covers windspeed, geophysical, bird, fish, benthic and sedimentology data, from pre-construction through to decommissioning stages of a project lifecycle.
It is also the data repository for the Offshore Wind Evidence and Change programme (OWEC), which brings together devolved governments, industry, regulators, as well as NGOs such as the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts, to ensure the sustainable and co-ordinated expansion of offshore wind.
Earlier this month, we announced a commitment to double our investment in this programme to £50 million, in a bid to accelerate offshore energy ambitions in the UK whilst enabling coexistence with a thriving marine environment. This additional funding will deliver research and data projects including ones that address priority bird, marine mammal and seabed habitat research gaps identified in year one of the programme.
For the Celtic Sea floating wind programme, data will once again be at the forefront of our approach, accelerating development timelines through a programme of pre-consent surveys.
The next phase of the UK’s offshore wind industry is both exciting and complex. Continued collaboration and challenge, driven by abundant and reliable data, will enable developers, stakeholders and academia to find the systems solutions that we need. Open data sources like those from the MDE have a key role to play in our transition to a net zero economy. Knowledge is indeed (green) power.
To hear more from Huub and The Crown Estate attend Global Offshore Wind 2022 from 21 - 22 June at Manchester Central.