LONDON — The UK’s Crown Estate expects developers bidding to construct floating offshore wind farms in the Celtic Sea offshore Wales and southwest England to recognize the critical role of ports in the process.
It has also put in place measures to help de-risk projects ahead of opening the leasing round, including addressing new spatial constraints covered in a UK government review.
Since 2021, the Crown Estate has supported test and demonstration projects, investing in pre-consent surveys and performing work on environmental assessments and grid design.
Following discussions with governments and stakeholders, it recently informed potential developers that the seabed area was subject to multiple competing demands that required further intervention by the UK government to resolve.
The Crown Estate is now focused on delivering up to 4 GW of floating wind capacity across four project sites in two of the shortlisted search areas published last October for the first development phase, with the formal launch of the tender planned for later this year.
All are close to the shore offering reduced complexity in terms of future grid connections. The Crown Estate now plans further engagement before proceeding to market later this year; it has also pledged to keep developers informed on any other requirements that may arise from the ongoing work with the UK government.
Bidders must now set out various commitments as part of the tender process, including how they plan to reflect the role of ports in the assembly and deployment of turbines, including manufacture and storage of components such as foundation assembly, cabling and placement of turbines on top of the floating foundations.
The ports must be relatively close to project sites so assembled turbines can be floated out to their final locations. Prospective developers will be asked to consider how their proposed developments can provide wider benefits including lasting prosperity to local communities beyond the lifetime of the leases to progress to the later stages of the leasing process.
At the same time, the Crown Estate is commissioning further technical and environmental surveys related to floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea.
This summer specialist vessels equipped with towed and hull-mounted sensors will gather information on the seabed and subsurface, with the results supporting developers in taking early decisions and managing risk, and future environmental impact assessments as part of the planning process.
In addition, the Crown Estate continues to work closely with National Grid ESO on a coordinated grid connection plan.