UK Study Illustrates Offshore Wind-Powered Path to Net Zero

The UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), The Crown Estate, and Crown Estate Scotland have released a study that on the future of offshore wind in the UK, which shows the scale of potential for future deployment and helps understand and address how to best manage the various demands on the marine environment.

The study, carried out by Arup with support from Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult and ABPmer, provides the first illustrative framework for how the UK could deploy sufficient offshore wind to meet net zero, according to Crown Estate Scotland.

“We are already a world leader in offshore wind. This report will help inform the UK’s future deployment of renewable energy, reducing our exposure to volatile global gas prices and boosting our energy security”, said UK Energy Minister Greg Hands.

The study is part of the Future Offshore Wind Scenarios (FOWS) project and provides a more holistic consideration of the complex interactions concerning offshore wind deployment out to net zero than was previously available and will help to inform future decision making.

FOWS is not a marine spatial plan, rather, it provides illustrative spatial scenarios for offshore wind development out to 2050. These investigate the potential implications for future relative deployment costs and offshore wind technology choice, in interaction with the environment, other infrastructure, and marine industries such as shipping and fishing.

The findings highlight the importance of approach in considering the spatial and cost implications of deploying sufficient offshore wind to meet net zero. They also identify the important role that floating wind could play, increasing deployment location options, with the potential to ease spatial pressures in UK waters.

It is worth noting here that the outcome of the ScotWind Leasing process is not included in the report since the seabwas not complete when the FOWS study was undertaken.

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The insights gained from FOWS will inform decisions about the UK’s offshore energy future including the UK Government’s Marine Spatial Prioritisation Programme which is gathering further data and building evidence, using this study as an important reference point, according to a press release from the government.

At the beginning of this month, the UK Government recently announced a new ambition on offshore wind of up to 50 GW by 2030, of which 5 GW of capacity is aimed to come from floating wind.

The new target will be underpinned with new planning reforms to cut the approval times for new offshore wind farms from four years to one year, and an overall streamlining which is expected to radically reduce the time it takes for new projects to reach construction stages while improving the environment, the government said.

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“Offshore wind is set to play a pivotal role in the UK’s 2050 energy system and net zero transition – but delivering on that potential will require balanced and holistic consideration of other marine activities and the natural environment”, said Will Apps, Head of Development – Marine, The Crown Estate.

“This study, supported through our Offshore Wind Evidence and Change programme, for the first time places the nation’s net zero offshore wind ambitions into a spatial context, providing an excellent evidence base for policymakers, the industry and broader stakeholders, to use as they work together to deliver this potential, vital for UK energy security and the green economy”.

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Photo: Kincardine floating wind farm; Illustration; Photo: Cobra