Floating offshore wind development: Essential in the UK’s race to net zero

The Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult’s Floating Offshore Wind Centre of Excellence has launched a report that will allow the floating wind industry to effectively plan for floating offshore wind development, which is a vital part of the UK’s race to net zero.

The recent ScotWind leasing process led to the potential of up to 15GW of floating offshore wind development, and an upcoming leasing process in the Celtic Sea intends to deliver a further 4GW.

The Floating Offshore Wind Environmental Interactions Roadmap, which was delivered in collaboration with Xodus Group, has highlighted numerous priority areas that will allow a portfolio of activities that can be capitalised by the opportunities provided by the floating offshore wind industry. Furthermore, this also offers the opportunity to mitigate potential risks, creating a faster and more efficient consenting process for future floating offshore wind farms.

“In the short-to-medium term, floating wind deployment in the UK will grow from early demonstrator projects to full-scale commercial wind farms.

“It is therefore imperative that the industry is aware of the potential environmental impacts of the technology to ensure effective solutions are in place to accelerate the build-out of the floating wind farms in the most sustainable manner,” explained Ralph Torr, Programme Manager of the Floating Offshore Wind Centre of Excellence (FOW CoE), from Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult.

The environmental interactions of floating offshore wind technology

The public report highlights ten areas of importance that relate to the specific environmental interactions of floating offshore wind technology and outlines recommendations to address the existing knowledge gaps.

These include:

  • Aviation safety;
  • Colocation and coexistence;
  • Cumulative impacts;
  • Electromagnetic fields;
  • Fisheries access;
  • Habitats regulations assessment;
  • Navigational risk;
  • Ornithology;
  • Skills gaps; and
  • Underwater noise.

Identifying these areas of importance will lead the way for the next phase of the project, where the FOW CoE will support the development and delivery of an Environmental Interactions Strategic Programme of research activities, which will address the knowledge gaps identified in the Environmental Interactions Roadmap.

This will be delivered with the support of a Steering Group comprising key stakeholders, including the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Crown Estate Scotland, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Crown Estate. 

How important is the marine environment in floating offshore wind development?

“Our marine environment is a vital asset in developing a clean, affordable and secure energy supply for the UK, and floating offshore wind provides new opportunities to unlock more waters for clean energy,” said Rebecca Pow, Environment Minister from the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

“Data and evidence are integral to achieving this while continuing to meet our commitments on ocean recovery. I’m delighted that DEFRA will be working closely with the FOW CoE in delivering a strategic programme of research to improve our understanding of the environmental interactions of floating offshore wind.”

“Today’s report provides a clear and valuable framework for improving our understanding of the interactions between floating offshore wind and the marine environment, and how best to support industry to develop this technology in an environmentally responsible way. We look forward to fully participating in the Environmental Actions Strategic Programme and building on this important work,” added Hubb den Rooijen, Managing Director Marine at the Crown Estate.

The importance of floating wind in achieving net zero

“It is clear that floating wind is going to play an important role in helping the UK achieve its net zero goals. It is also clear that activity is going to accelerate quickly so we need the consenting process to be fit-for-purpose,” concluded Chris Willow, on behalf of the FOW CoE Executive Governance Board, and Head of Floating Wind Development at RWE.

“Fortunately, floating wind is an evolution of conventional offshore wind, so we don’t need to go back to basics, but we do need to make sure everyone involved understands the differences and we agree on the best way to deal with them.

“This project has identified a clear list of priority topics, and effectively sets the agenda for what the industry needs to work on with local and national stakeholders going forward.”

Additionally, two further reports from the FOW CoE were launched at the Global Offshore Wind 2022 conference this week, considering the international market opportunities, strategic infrastructure, and supply chain development.

Currently, the FOW CoE is entering its third year as an internationally recognised initiative to reduce the cost of energy from floating wind. The centre was established to accelerate the build-out of floating farms, create opportunities for the UK supply chain, and drive innovation in manufacturing, installation, and O&M.

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