The Crown Estate July 2023 Update on Celtic Sea FLOW Leasing Round – Implications for development of a local supply chain

The hotly anticipated update from The Crown Estate on the 4GW leasing round for Floating Offshore Wind in the Celtic Sea was provided to prospective developers on Jul 4. The press release can be found here. But what does this update actually mean for local businesses eager to help deliver FLOW?

Summary of July 2023 TCE Update

Firstly, to summarise this update from this perspective:

  • Project Development Areas (PDAs): Refinement here nudges forward the “minded to” location of the first GW-scale sites – and therefore the nearest landfalls.
  • Ports: Bidders will have to make clear their commitments on the role of ports, particularly on integration and assembly.
  • Supply chain: Specific requirements for local content are not outlined here – which may disappoint many regional stakeholders. However, within the detail of the bid process, we hope to see strong prompts that induce developers to root projects in UK capability. The later CfD auction process is also an opportunity for local content requirements.
  • Innovative and Constructive: TCE “require developers to think innovatively and constructively about how their proposed developments can provide wider benefits across the UK’s economic, social and environmental objectives…”. This is very welcome indeed – a clear prompt for new approaches that can be driven from and for the region.
  • Lasting social value and environmental value: “…. With the objective of creating a legacy of healthier, more resilient, more fair, vibrant and prosperous communities that will stretch beyond the lifetime of the leases”. We all agree. Exactly how though; to avoid a “race to the bottom” and stimulate a “race to the top”?

Next Steps

The next steps will be: TCE consultation through the summer, possibly with further interim updates. By late 2023 /early 2024 the process should open for prospective developers to submit their bids. Toward the end of 2024 we should know the 3 or 4 developers who have won the rights to develop projects of around 1GW apiece.


In a round of pre-qualification – ITT1 – bidders must meet requirements on their intent and ability to create social value. Detailed criteria for this will determine a pass or fail – a gateway that should not be seen as a formality. The value the Crown Estate place on delivery of wider societal benefits has been consistently expressed – and with increasing robustness. We look forward to hopefuls raising the bar to ensure they squeeze through ITT1 and on to the final stage. This will be bidding on price, for which sizeable cheques will be needed. For the region, we welcome that ambition – if it is wedded to lasting social and environmental value that all publicly proclaim.

TCE Update and Process – What does it mean for regional development?

The first response to this update has been, from several quarters, “we need another 20GW”. This is undoubtedly the case. Crystal-clear backing from central government on that colossal pipeline would give confidence to unlock the upfront investment needed to drive massive upgrades to ports, infrastructure and grid. These are keystone developments that will enable wider regional benefits over generations.  In the here and now though, businesses who can see the scale of the FLOW opportunity might understandably wonder how all this relates to them. As big and exciting as the floating offshore wind market sounds; it is pretty hard to fathom. In a bid to make things clearer:

  • Pace: The tempo of Celtic Sea FLOW development has been rapid but may appear somewhat stop-start. The milestones of government, the crown estate and prospective developers are important but need not dictate either business planning or regional development. The way forward may be uncertain but plans on the ground can be made and acted upon today. To actually deliver these grand targets, we have to.
  • Test & Demonstration: For starters, the Celtic Sea has 432MW of test and demo sites – TwinHub, Erebus, Whitecross and Llyr 1&2 – set to come online by 2030. How these T&D sites choose to progress may not necessarily be indicative of the commercial scale requirements challenges – but they still need solving. Developing capacity to do so within Wales, the SW and Cornwall is vital.
  • Scale: To de-risk their projects, developers want suppliers with balance sheet. Domestic Tier 1s and 2s are scarce however, with local and UK capability tending to be split across smaller SMEs. This presents a major challenge. How to address? Investment. Collaboration. Ambition.
  • Access to Market: How does any “local content requirement” filter down to an SME gamely signing up to another supply chain portal? This is tough for smaller companies – it is a long game that requires deep faith in your business development manager. And, crucially; who is your customer?
  • Be Proactive: Sometime in 2024, we will know which 3 or 4 developers have won through. This will be a useful step to better understanding “customer requirements”. But, whichever of the 30 or 40 prospective developers are able to pass that ITT1 and secure the lease, they (and their contractors) will face similar challenges. The solutions to which canny local SMEs are already considering. Matching that knowledge and innovation with scale and visibility will enable regionally-based solutions to be ready – in advance of the future client articulating their needs.
  • Capability: Finally, let’s be clear; there is no question of capability. The basis for delivering FLOW already lies within our region and the UK. A point made plain at the recent Celtic Sea FLOW Summit by Sian Lloyd-Rees (supply chain champion at OEUK). Where we may be lacking, that’s OK: Swiftly building from our strengths will open up massive export potential.

No Regret Activity

To wrap up, for all the chatter and expectation around government targets, developer promises and the Crown Estates leasing process – one message should sing out. Neatly expressed by TCE’s Tim Stiven at the Celtic Sea FLOW Summit, that now is the time for “no regret activity”. We can be confident in the Celtic Sea FLOW opportunity but work is needed now. This can, and should, continue apace unbound by the leasing timetable and parade of prospective developers.

Local Supply Chain >> Sustainable Regional Industry

local supply chain that passively stands by for scraps from Celtic Sea FLOW would be nice for our region. But a sustainable regional industry that actively goes out now to make it happen could make for generational change for the good. No less than Cornwall, Wales and the South West deserve.

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