The Crown Estate has awarded the first contract for survey work in support of its leasing of space for new floating wind farms in the Celtic Sea.
The UK’s seabed manager said the contract marks the first in what it anticipates will be “a multi-million pound series” of technical and environmental surveys around potential locations for new floating sites.
Contracts have now been signed for the initial phase of metocean surveys, which look at wind, wave and current patterns, beginning in spring 2023.
One of the first major commercial buildouts of floating technology in the UK so far, the Celtic Sea programme is intended to establish 4GW of floating wind capacity by 2035, though the area could eventually accommodate up to an additional 20GW by 2045.
Over the last year, the organisation has been working with technical advisors, industry and other stakeholders, to develop a programme of survey that can useful and reliable datasets.
By investing in surveys at an early stage and making data freely available to successful bidders, Crown Estate said it is aiming to accelerate project delivery and make it easier for developers to take early decisions and manage risk.
Precise specifications will be kept under review as the programme progresses, but work will cover a range of vital considerations, including geophysical and geotechnical properties of the seabed, wind, wave and current patterns, and marine wildlife.
It is hoped the programme will avoid the need for developers to conduct additional surveys later in the process, while making best use of limited specialist survey resource, Crown Estate said.
The Crown Estate said it would progress the procurement of remaining surveys over the coming weeks and months, “subject to further commercial discussions.”
The awards follow updates on the tender process and the offshore zones published in October in preparation for a tender held next year.
Crown Estate said it expects to provide further updates to developers in the first half of next year ahead of the official launch of the leasing process.
Nicola Clay, Head of New Ventures, said: “A successful floating wind market in the Celtic Sea will not only support the UK’s journey to net zero and strengthen our energy security, but can be the catalyst for new jobs, investment and supply chain opportunities. Ensuring these benefits are fully realised is a shared challenge, and The Crown Estate is committed to playing its part in supporting the growth of these important markets.
“Part of this is ensuring the swift deployment of this new technology, which is why we have been working across the industry to develop a programme of surveys that will ensure decisions are based on timely and robust data. The Crown Estate is uniquely placed to facilitate this sort of collective data-gathering, which will not only help maximise the growth of secure, affordable green energy, but also support the protection and restoration of marine ecosystems.
Tim Pick, co-chairman of the Offshore Wind Acceleration Taskforce, added: “The prospect of floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea is taking shape, with The Crown Estate working with government and industry to progress the leasing process and stimulate a sustainable approach to the supply chain. I welcome the news of the awarding of contracts for surveys at an early stage, since it will accelerate the process and allow developers to take full advantage of the data that the surveys generate.”