UK Gov’t Working to Resolve Spatial Issues for Floating Wind Areas in Celtic Sea
The UK government, supported by the Crown Estate, is currently reviewing a number of spatial considerations in the Celtic Sea as part of the work to narrow down the broader areas identified earlier into project development areas for the upcoming 4 GW floating offshore wind tender.
In this article:
- Broad ‘Areas of Search’ Refined, Next Stop: Project Development Areas
- Ensuring Floating Wind Build-Out Happens Soon Remains Priority
On 26 May, the Crown Estate said that it had updated developers on the current status of the Celtic Sea floating wind tender round, highlighting the government’s work to review a number of spatial considerations relating to the potential locations of the proposed floating wind farms.
The UK’s seabed manager will set out the next steps as the government concludes its consideration of these issues and will soon send out further information on the programme to developers.
Broad ‘Areas of Search’ Refined, Next Stop: Project Development Areas
The Crown Estate announced five Areas of Search for the development of floating offshore wind last year and said the next step was spatial refinement.
To identify these initial, broad Areas of Search, a range of market, marine and statutory stakeholders were engaged to ensure the proposals were informed by a wide base of experience and expertise.
The process of refining the areas included technical analysis, market feedback and further stakeholder engagement with governments, industry and the full range of seabed users, which focused on a number of important issues, including the spatial work.
This allowed the Crown Estate to distil the initial five broad areas down to “Refined Areas of Search”, smaller areas of seabed within which projects may be built in the future. There are five Refined Areas of Search, which are located within three of the original five broad Areas of Search.
Now, these Refined Areas of Search will be further refined into potential “Project Development Areas”. This will ensure that developers have access to locations for floating offshore wind that are expected to be deliverable in the near term, according to the Crown Estate.
As part of the work on further narrowing down the areas into project sites, the Crown Estate has continued with stakeholder engagement, including governments, industry and the full range of seabed users.
“This engagement has helped highlight that the Celtic Sea is subject to many competing demands and that there are a number of spatial considerations and policy drivers that the UK Government is currently working to resolve, supported by The Crown Estate”, the seabed authority said in a press release on 26 May.
“The Crown Estate has now informed developers that it will set out next steps as the UK Government concludes its consideration of these issues and that it will soon circulate further information on the programme as well as a date for the next developer webinar event”.
Ensuring Floating Wind Build-Out Happens Soon Remains Priority
The Crown Estate says it has taken a number of steps to help accelerate the deployment of floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea and remove some of the risks and uncertainty developers face.
The work on identifying Project Development Areas is being done simultaneously with the plan-level Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA), which assesses the potential impact of leasing on environmentally valuable habitats.
In December 2022, the first contract in a series of technical and environmental surveyswas awarded to accelerate the delivery of projects and make it easier for developers to take early decisions and manage risk while supporting future project-level Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) as part of the planning process.
The Crown Estate says that its Draft Site Selection Methodology will be finalised and published in due course to show the steps taken throughout the spatial refinement process, alongside further detail on the inputs and methods used to formalise final site selection.
Furthermore, the seabed manager is working closely with National Grid ESO to ensure this floating wind leasing process will have a coordinated grid connection concept.
The Information Memorandum, which will provide further information to the market, will be published this year, followed by a three-stage tender process.
As reported earlier, developers will have options to bring forward projects in phases while the technology and supply chains mature as part of the Crown Estate’s “stepping stone” approach which involves first building early-commercial scale projects and then full-commercial scale projects of a bigger capacity.
“Recognising the need to develop the UK supply chain and supporting infrastructure for this nascent technology, this approach is deliberately intended to provide opportunities for growth and investment. This will also facilitate the co-ordination of the necessary infrastructure, such as ports and grid connections, all of which are key to the sustainable development of the UK floating wind sector over the long term”, the Crown Estate states on its website.
In order to participate in the tender, developers will be expected to outline a plan for supporting early investment in an internationally competitive and end-to-end supply chain with its roots in the Celtic Sea region.
Together with legal, financial and technical criteria, the supply chain plans will determine whether applicants qualify for proceeding to the final stage of the tender.
The final award of an Agreement for Lease for each site will be based on price offered, meaning greatest value delivered for the nation from the tender process.
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