An In-Depth Look at the Floating Wind of the Celtic Sea 

An In-Depth Look at the Floating Wind of the Celtic Sea 

The Celtic Sea is in a prime location to establish its role in floating offshore wind energy production 

The Celtic Sea was discussed at length during the Floating Offshore Wind Conference in Aberdeen. The Celtic Sea is in an ideal position to take the early initiative in establishing a leading role in the generation of floating offshore wind energy. However, one issue that was raised as an example during the event was the difficulties that the oil industry faced in developing Brents in the 1980s. Helen Donovan, senior business development manager, Energy & Investment, Welsh Government, stated this year that there were four to five 100 MW scale projects underway in the region, with the TwinHub project receiving the only CFD (contract for difference – a funding mechanism) for floating offshore wind in the United Kingdom. 

Since no offshore wind farms have been constructed in the area before, Donovan claims that they have a “blank canvas” to work with and can therefore benefit from lessons learned elsewhere while developing an all-encompassing grid approach. Possibilities existed to export energy to countries like France and Ireland. She predicted that the industry would see 4GW of floating power by 2035 thanks to upcoming bid rounds, and another 20GW by 2045. 

The Primary Challenges for UK Floating Wind 

As per Donovan, there are five main challenges that the UK Floating Wind sector faces, which are infrastructure, grid, supply chain opportunities, skills and talent, and research and development. 

Infrastructure and Grid 

Pembroke and Port Talbot are two areas that are in need of investment in their infrastructure. Although Pembroke has spent money on infrastructure, such as £42 million on a new pier, ABP sees Port Talbot as more of a “blank sheet.” Donovan suggested that supplementary roles for other ports were possible, in addition to the potential for high-value manufacturing. 

The Celtic Sea’s strength will be in its early development, according to Tim Stiven, The Crown Estate’s Innovation and New Ventures Lead (Marine). “It’s a big industrial undertaking,” he added. Milford Haven to Cardiff and back would be the length of the 4GW anchor cable. He predicted that it would take a lot of planning, talent, and marshalling. The Crown Estate, which manages the UK’s seabed (excluding Scotland), is aiming to speed up the permission process by combining environmental and spatial work. 

For these projects to be successfully deployed, the expansion of port infrastructure in Wales, according to Seb Rae, Deputy Project Lead, Celtic Sea, RWE Renewables, is essential. RWE, according to him, was now designing port space in conjunction with ports. 

Supply Chain Opportunities 

According to Adam Morrison, project director for the Moray West Offshore Wind Farm at Ocean Winds, despite the emphasis on massive steel-driven components, there will be a cascade into the supply chain and a requirement for thousands of kilometres of mooring lines. The supply chain, not just in steel fabrication, is beginning to realise this medium- to long-term possibility where there are hubs, he added. Many sub-systems will produce chances; they might take time. 

The undeveloped state of floater technology, the rising price of steel (which is pushing some to focus on concrete and the associated CO2 footprint), and the difficulties turbine manufacturers are having even meeting current demand were all topics that were not brought up by the panellists but were being discussed off-camera. It was also noted that very few members of the panel had active initiatives in the Celtic Sea at the time. 

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Skills and Talent 

Morrison noted that a problem is the lack of skilled workers. He stated that they must engage in STEM, EDI, and apprenticeships. They must complete everything at the development level. They must cooperate on industrial-level projects at the developer level and acknowledge their importance. They also need to promote the industry.  He added that “We know it’s cool, but we need to look at it regionally and sell the sector, and that [show] it’s an interesting place to work, that electrical engineering is cool and will provide high-quality, long-term jobs.”  

The sole supply chain participant on the panel and Martin Carruth’s commercial director at Marine Power Systems, agreed that the pricing dynamic was crucial. Carruth believes that if they don’t get it right, a significant portion of the UK’s supply chain capability will be lost. While the Celtic Sea has great potential, he notes that it is not quite as developed as Scotland, and hence needs more attention. To accomplish this, cooperation is essential. 

Research and Development 

Hugo Buis, regional vice president for offshore power for Shell, spoke at the beginning of the session, which was centred on the Celtic Sea. As part of a joint venture between Shell and ScottishPower Renewables, the MarramWind and CampionWind ScotWind projects off the east and northeast coasts of Scotland are being developed to provide 5GW of floating offshore wind energy. He suggested that these efforts would pave the way for rapid scalability and greater clarity in the future of floating offshore wind. 

CampionWind, a proposed floating offshore wind farm, would be located 100 km off the east coast of Scotland, in water that is on average 77 metres deep, and could generate up to 2 GW of renewable electricity. The MarramWind floating offshore wind farm is intended to be built 75 km off the coast of Aberdeenshire in water an average of 100 metres deep, with the potential to generate up to 3GW of renewable energy. 

Reduced costs are a major issue for floating, and given the current price environment, it isn’t happening even with the fixed bottom wind. Developing the Brent fields in the 1980s was a similar challenge, according to Buis. According to Buis, Shell will gain knowledge from the TetraSpar demo in Norway, including how to keep such buildings safe and secure. 

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