Jan 18

Image: Andrew Saunders / Equinor

The United Kingdom is pressing ahead with new technologies in wind generation, with an announcement that it will create leases for floating wind farms in the Celtic Sea, according to the Crown Estate’s website.

The Crown Estate will start to design and deliver leasing opportunities focusing on projects of around 300 megawatts (MW), which is three times larger than any rights previously awarded. The measure will be key to delivering 1 gigawatt (GW) of floating wind by 2030, according to the statement.

Floating wind farms seek to access increased generation from stronger and steadier winds that are found further from coastlines.

“This is a good opportunity to get floating wind farms off the ground,” said Elchin Mammadov, a senior equity research analyst for European Utilities at Bloomberg. “They are more expensive than fixed bottom offshore wind farms but the cost should come down with economies of scale.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson last year pledged to make Britain the world leader in clean energy last year. The island nation has developed offshore wind generation resources, replacing jobs and seeking new industries as hydrocarbons production slumps.

The environmental results are positive as well. Emissions are 51% lower than in 1990, and the UK is halfway to reaching its net zero target by 2050, according to Carbon Brief.

The Crown Estate’s discussion with floating wind participants confirmed its confidence in the location and that the sector can move to the next phase in development and deliver “early commercial scale projects.”

In depths of 50-60 meters and onwards, wind towers need to switch from plans where they stand on the seabed. They must “float” like some deepwater oil rigs. They use different technologies yet are affixed to the seabed with anchors and moorings.

The world’s first floating wind park, Hywind, is located in Scotland and is operated by Norway’s Equinor. It has been producing since 2017 with a capacity of 30MW. Major oil producers across Europe that are making energy transitions, including Total, have already entered floating wind projects in France.

By Stephen Bierman

Stephen Bierman is an energy markets journalist and the editor of New Economy Observer.

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