The Crown Estate grants leasing rights to 96MW Erebus floating wind demonstration project, a joint venture between Total and Simply Blue Energy
Wales' first floating wind project took a major step forward this week, after the Crown Estate awarded seabed rights to developers to build the 96MW demonstration project in the Celtic Sea.
If final planning consent is granted, the Erebus project would be installed approximately 44km from the shore and will allow developer Blue Gem Wind - a joint venture between French oil giant Total and developer Simply Blue Energy - to trial floating wind technology in water depths of 70 metres.
"Welsh waters are home to a thriving offshore wind industry and as this continues to evolve and mature, innovation will be vital to unlocking a sustainable pipeline of new capacity over the longer term," head of energy development at the Crown Estate Will Apps said. "With an increasingly busy marine environment, we need to explore new technologies in more diverse and technically challenging areas which is why we are delighted to see the Erebus project take this important step."
Floating wind technology does not rely on traditional fixed foundations and allows wind projects to be installed in deeper waters where wind yields are higher. While in its infancy today, the technology is anticipated to grow rapidly over the decades to come and play a steering role in helping the UK deliver 75GW of offshore wind by mid-century, a target set by government climate advisors the Committee on Climate Change. Research centre Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult estimates that the Celtic Sea alone could support up to 50GW of offshore capacity, while supporting thousands of jobs in Wales and southwest England.
Hugh Kelly, project managing director of Blue Gem Wind, welcomed today's announcement, which he said would allow the firm to progress with environmental assessments and surveys, secure access to the power grid, and seek final planning permission for the project.
"This first project in Wales will begin to unlock the significant potential of floating wind in the Celtic Sea," he said. "It is the first of the stepping-stone projects required to launch a new chapter in the development of offshore energy in the South West; a new industry that can deliver significant benefits for the local supply chain and the coastal communities of Wales and the wider UK."
The leasing deal is one of a number of offshore wind milestones recently marked in Wales by the Crown Estate. Last month, it granted seabed rights for a 106-square kilometre extension to the Gwynt y Mor offshore wind farm off the coast of North Wales. The extension, if consented, will add 576MW of capacity to one of the world's largest offshore wind farms.
And last year, the Crown Estate included the Northern Wales and Irish Sea Bidding Area in the first UK offshore wind leasing round held in a decade. Projects picked in Offshore Leasing Round 4 could be operational by 2030, it said, with projects set to be identified later this year through a competitive tender process.
Wales' minister for environment, energy and rural affairs Lesley Griffiths stressed that tackling the climate emergency and meeting the UK and Wales' climate commitments would require developing much more renewable energy. "I am pleased to welcome this next step in harnessing the potential for energy identified in the recently published Wales National Marine Plan," she said. "We will continue to ensure projects bring sustainable jobs and investment to Wales whilst delivering on our legally binding climate commitments."
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