As colleagues prepare to gather for Future Energy Wales 2022 next month, we do so at a time of considerable change and expansion within the offshore wind sector. The development of offshore wind over the past decade has been remarkable, and it’s only getting started, with a UK wide target of 50GW to be installed by 2030.
The development of floating technology is now opening up new areas of our seas previously out of reach for offshore wind.
We’ve already seen certain parts of the UK play host to booms in floating offshore wind deployment recently, such as that seen in Scottish waters through the ScotWind process which led to nearly 18GW of floating wind being allocated.
Here in Wales and South West England we have a fantastic opportunity to play host to the next phase of floating offshore wind deployment, through the Celtic Sea leasing process currently being run by The Crown Estate. An initial opportunity of 4GW of floating wind is up for grabs by 2035 and we could see a further 20GW by 2045.
While the leasing process for the Celtic Sea provides the opportunity, it doesn’t get us there on its own. That will only happen by ensuring our regions and communities have the infrastructure in place which can help support future developments and deliver local supply chain benefits.
The Celtic Sea Cluster, which I am now proud to be the Chair of, was created with exactly this in mind. The Cluster is led by the Welsh Government, Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, Celtic Sea Power, Marine Energy Wales and the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult. Our mission is to spearhead the creation of the Celtic Sea floating offshore wind market and maximise the benefits of this technology for all the locations involved.
We want to cement the region as a world leader in Floating Offshore Wind, and firmly believe that this is within our reach if we get things right.
These things can broadly be brought together under three categories:
We are blessed to already have some world leading port facilities. The needs and requirements of the floating offshore wind sector though are different and distinct from the sectors these ports currently support. This means we need a step change in port provision, to ensure that developers can access suitable facilities to support the assembly of turbines that are increasing in size all the time. This is not a challenge unique to the Celtic Sea, and I know that with the right collaboration with industry and government colleagues across the UK it is possible to deliver the solutions we need.
On skills, we need to secure pathways to the development of local green offshore energy skills to deliver the employment opportunities we all need and want to see. The good news is that in this part of the world we have a fantastic skill base in sectors that provide opportunities for cross over, such as onshore renewables.
Thirdly, we need to create an investment environment which will attract companies to base as much of their operations as possible within the local area. There is work we can do in terms of transport provision, industrial capability and regulation that can help get us there.
Obviously, all of this needs to work in harmony with our work to protect the marine environment and to ensure that any impact on both the onshore and offshore natural habitats is kept to a minimum. To succeed in this, we know we need to work closely and constructively with communities and key stakeholders to collectively find solutions to the challenges we face.
At Future Energy Wales, we are launching the Celtic Sea Cluster regional strategy, which contains several pathways to help unlock the region’s potential and build on existing regional capabilities in offshore renewables. By galvanising regional supply chains, outlining innovative ways to accelerate deployment, working with stakeholders on marine environment protection, and crucially, speaking with one coherent voice to governments and industry, we can take the bold steps needed to move us closer to the Celtic Sea region hosting a boom in floating offshore wind development. You can find the strategy in full on our website.
More broadly, if you are interested in the future of offshore renewable energy in the Celtic Sea region, or would like to explore the opportunities it provides, please get in touch. You can contact us at www.celticseacluster.com, and we will also have a strong contingent present at Future Energy Wales, so please come to our stand and say hello. We’d love to hear from you.