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Jobs boost from Celtic Sea floating wind industry

A new floating offshore wind industry in the Celtic Sea could support 3,200 jobs in the South West and Wales, and £682m of spend in the local supply chain by 2030.

These are the findings of a report by the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult (OREC) examining the potential economic benefits of installing floating wind turbines in waters off the coast of Wales and South West England.

Floating offshore wind can be deployed in deeper waters where wind resource is higher and is not constrained by the need for fixed bottom foundations. The Conservative manifesto[1] has committed the UK to reaching 40GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030, and enabling new floating wind farms.

The OREC report was jointly commissioned by the Welsh Government and the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to examine how to maximise the economic opportunity of floating offshore wind projects.

The report models four separate floating wind sites in the Celtic Sea, with two off the Cornwall coast and two off the coast of West Wales.

It says the combined spend in the regional supply chain in Wales and the South West if all four projects went ahead could be £682m, supporting 3,200 jobs. Areas of activity include development and consenting, vessels and subsea engineering, electrical infrastructure, anchors, ports and logistics, and some manufacture.

That spend could increase to £1.24 billion if there is further investment in manufacturing facilities for mooring chains and cables, and port infrastructure to enable turbine substructure fabrication locally, rather than final assembly only.

Glenn Caplin, chief executive of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP, said: “For 18 months we have been leading an initiative to secure floating offshore wind deployments in the Celtic Sea, building on our area’s maritime and offshore renewable energy expertise.

“The Celtic Sea is one of only two UK locations where floating offshore wind turbines will be deployed at scale, the other being Scotland. This report, which we have jointly funded with the Welsh Government, sets out in detail the significant economic and jobs benefits that would accrue to our respective regions.

“The scale of the Celtic Sea resources are of national significance, with potential to make a major contribution to the UK’s offshore wind and climate change targets. The LEP and industry are now engaging with Government on potential revenue support mechanisms that would help us unlock this exciting new industry for the UK.”

The OREC report adds: “There is an opportunity to develop a local supply chain for Wales and the Greater South West region that is well equipped to provide the foundation for, and then benefit from, the long-term opportunities associated with the build-out of floating offshore wind.”

The report models the development and deployment of four pre-commercial floating offshore wind projects in the mid to late 2020s.

The first, in 2023/24, would be a four-turbine, 32MW project using the repurposed Wave Hub test site 16kms off the north coast of Cornwall, which is currently seeking a revised consent for floating wind. Such a project could power an estimated 23,000 homes[2].

This would be followed in 2025/26 by a 90MW scheme in the Pembrokeshire Development Zone, 15 kms from the Welsh coast, using nine turbines.

A 300MW, 12-turbine project could follow in 2027/28, some 40 kms off the south coast of Pembrokeshire. And a 500MW, 33-turbine project, 60 kilometres west of Cornwall, could be built by the end of the decade. This would power more than 360,000 homes[3] and assumes that 15MW turbines will be available in the next 10 years.

The report stresses: “It is important to note that these zones are presented as one possibility of high potential areas for future offshore wind development. They have not been endorsed by The Crown Estate, who will conduct their own exercise ahead of any future seabed leasing rounds.”

The report, called Benefits of Floating Offshore Wind to Wales and the South West, was launched by OREC at a floating wind industry seminar in Milford Haven on January 30th. This followed three preceding floating offshore wind seminars in Cornwall in 2018 and 2019.

It is being seen by industry as important in making the case for public investment in energy generation by showing the potential for the UK supply chain to capture a higher percentage of work per project, giving value to UK taxpayers and energy consumers.

The fixed bottom offshore wind industry is currently achieving 48% UK ‘content’ in the lifetime value of projects. The UK Offshore Wind Sector Deal, signed by Government and industry in March last year, sets a target of 60%. To date, pilot floating offshore wind projects in Scotland have had limited contribution from the UK supply chain, with major fabrication and installation works being undertaken in Spain and Norway.

Supply Chain Report