The Crown Estate plans 4 GW floating wind leases in the Celtic Sea


The Crown Estate (TCE) in the UK has published more details on its plans to lease areas of the Celtic Sea for floating wind. In so doing, TCE confirmed its ambition to unlock up to 4 GW of capacity in England and Wales.


“Floating wind technology offers a powerful opportunity to open up the renewable energy resources of the Celtic Sea, helping to tackle the climate crisis with additional clean power and ignite a new industrial sector
”, said Huub den Rooijen, Managing Director of Marine at the Crown Estate.


“We are focused on realising this potential in a way that supports the development of the regional supply chain and infrastructure, protects our marine environment, and harnesses the opportunity for local communities.”


TCE’s proposals were published today, following engagement with government, the market, and stakeholders. They include a focus on two key project categories: early commercial scale projects (c. 300-350 MW) and full commercial scale projects (up to 1 GW).


The proposals also include leasing designed in pace and scale to support supply chain and infrastructure development, enabling Wales, the south west, and the wider UK to develop a sustainable sector.


Another feature is a revised approach to spatial design and the Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA). TCE will conduct an integrated spatial design and Plan-Level HRA ahead of market tender, in order to identify key environmental issues as soon as possible. This, it understands, will help de-risk investment, minimise environmental risk, and streamline the overall programme.


In addition, the proposal sets out plans to work to support a coordinated grid solution for floating wind, with Electricity System Operator and others, in line with work currently underway through the Offshore Transmission Network Review.


Dan McGrail, Chief Executive, RenewableUK, said: “This announcement further reinforces the critical role floating wind will play in achieving the scale of installed capacity which will be required to deliver a cost-effective Net Zero.


“It is a huge economic opportunity as well as an industrial challenge, requiring short and longer-term enabling actions ahead of the arrival of the first large scale projects - to ensure the UK capitalises fully on ‘first mover’ advantage.  


“Within this, the Celtic Sea has a massive role to play and we very much welcome The Crown Estate signalling the scale and pace at which this opportunity will develop – maximising financial, social and environmental benefits to the Celtic Sea area and the UK.”


As for timelines, rights could be awarded by the end of 2023, which would mean project delivery in the early 2030s. The leasing process is expected to release enough capacity to provide clean energy for almost 4,000,000 more homes, supporting the UK’s net-zero target and creating new investment opportunities for jobs, skills, and infrastructure.


TCE is taking the next steps now. It is shortly to begin the next stages of market and stakeholder engagement. This engagement on the floating wind programme will take place in two phases over the winter (2021-2). Phase One focusses on spatial design, gathering data and evidence to inform about project site locations. Phase Two invites views on the market tender design and the programme’s wider considerations, including supply chain, port and grid, community benefit, and skills and employment matters.


UK politicians have welcomed the announcement, with Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change Minister Greg Hands praising the plan, which “will help unlock the full potential of the UK’s seas, creating high-skilled jobs and driving investment – all while supporting the delivery of clean energy to millions of homes across the country." The Welsh Government’s Minister for Climate Change, Julie James, also welcomed the announcement, noting that it offers certainty for developers and helps us optimise the resources from the Celtic Sea while guarding against unacceptable impacts on the marine environment.”


The approach to environmental impact assessment is to be coordinated, so the Llŷr and Whitecross test and demonstration scale projects (announced earlier this year) will form part of the Plan-Level Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) for floating wind in the Celtic Sea.  


To view projects on 4C Offshore's interactive map, click here.