UK offshore wind today
Many people will be familiar with offshore wind turbines, which can be seen from many beaches and cliffs on England’s east, southeast, and northwest coasts. Anyone who has flown from a London airport towards the continent may have had a birds-eye view of the Thames Estuary wind farms (of which there are four). The largest of these is the London Array, which was the largest offshore wind farm in the world when it was commissioned in 2013 with an impressive nameplate capacity of 630 MW (megawatts). This has since been surpassed by the 1.3 GW Hornsea 2 wind farm in the North Sea.
In total there was around 11200 megawatts (11.2 GW) of offshore wind in the UK in 2021. Aside from two tiny sites in Scotland, all these turbines are fixed to the seabed using foundations – either concrete monopiles or huge steel lattices called “jackets”.
A new generation of offshore wind
Last year the Crown Estate announced it would lease out enough seabed for 4 gigawatts (GW) of floating wind power to be built in the Celtic Sea before 2035. There’s no doubt that the UK’s ambition to be a world leader in floating offshore wind involves some ambitious targets. Both the turbines and the wind farms themselves will be bigger than anything that came before. Each floating farm in the Celtic Sea will be 1 GW, almost twice as large as the London Array, almost world-record breaking in size, and each almost as large as the four wind farms in the Thames Estuary combined. The turbines themselves will be significantly bigger than those installed in the last decade, with blades over 100 meters long, and towers up to 150m above sea level.
Why do we want floating offshore wind?
FLOW will enable whole new parts of the UK to embrace offshore wind. Fixed wind is only possible close to shallow shores where the water is less than 50 meters deep. Floating foundations mean there is effectively no depth limit, opening up many sites on the west coast of the UK which were previously untenable. This has many benefits: a greater total amount of wind power, better balance for the national electricity network, and better generation consistency, as it is often windy on one coast when it’s still on the other.
Peak demand for electricity in the UK is currently around 50 GW. With people moving to electric cars and heat pumps, this demand will increase rapidly in the next two decades. Improving our renewable electricity capacity now will help us to meet this increase in demand without having to increase the amount of polluting fossil fuels we burn to generate electricity.
What will FLOW look like in the Celtic Sea?
Different developers and manufacturers are designing floating platforms for use in the Celtic Sea. There are still many design features to choose from, including materials such as steel or concrete, mooring systems, dynamic cable connections, platform design, and type of turbine.
Ports across the southwest of England and the south coast of Wales will play a role in the construction of these farms, with new jobs in construction, design, environmental management, law, education, management, marketing, stakeholder engagement, operations and maintenance, engineering, and science. Developers will establish operations hubs in the region, and these will remain for decades as the wind farms produce power. This type of investment and development has brought benefits to towns such as Grimsby on the northeast coast and will inject money into the local economies around the Celtic Sea.
FLOW will change the onshore industries in the southwest and Wales. There will be many opportunities for people from all walks of life to find a well-paid and reliable career, and the clean electricity brought onshore from these farms will play a significant part in the clean future of the UK.
- The Challenge of Financing Port Infrastructure for FLOW
- Huub den Rooijen joins Celtic Sea Power Ltd as Non-Executive Director
- Concrete Position Paper 2023
- Meet the Swansea Bay City Deal
- The Crown Estate July 2023 Update on Celtic Sea FLOW Leasing Round – Implications for development of a local supply chain