Blue Gem Wind plans to install the 96 MW Erebus floating wind demonstration project in the Welsh waters of the Celtic Sea, 44km from shore.
The Crown Estate described it as ‘a significant moment for the Welsh offshore wind sector’ as it is the first time that rights have been awarded for floating wind turbines in Wales.
The project is part of The Crown Estate’s Offshore Wind Test and Demonstration initiative, designed to facilitate pre-commercial innovation through the trial of new and emerging technologies in live conditions. Floating technologies, deemed better suited to deeper waters than traditional ‘fixed’ foundations, are seen as a way to unlock new areas of seabed for wind power.
The award of seabed rights, known as an ‘agreement for lease’, will allow Blue Gem Wind (a joint venture between Total and Simply Blue Energy) to progress with environmental assessments and surveys, secure access to the grid and seek planning consent through the statutory processes.
This builds on two further offshore wind developments in Wales. The first is The Crown Estate’s award of seabed rights for the proposed extension to the Gwynt y Môr offshore wind farm (known as Awel y Môr), off the coast of North Wales. Once consented, the extension could deliver up to 576 MW of capacity, alongside the existing project.
The second, confirmed last year, is the inclusion of areas of Wales’s seabed in The Crown Estate’s offshore wind leasing round four – the first major UK leasing round in a decade. Projects from leasing round four will be identified later this year, as part of a competitive tender process, and subject to an environmental assessment, could be awarded rights in 2021. Once consented and developed, round four projects could be operational by 2030.
Will Apps, head of energy development at The Crown Estate said: “Welsh waters are home to a thriving offshore wind industry and as this continues to evolve and mature, innovation will be vital to unlocking a sustainable pipeline of new capacity over the longer term. With an increasingly busy marine environment, we need to explore new technologies in more diverse and technically challenging areas which is why we are delighted to see the Erebus Project take this important step”
Hugh Kelly, project managing director of Blue Gem Wind, said: “We are incredibly pleased to sign the agreement for lease for Erebus. This first project in Wales will begin to unlock the significant potential of floating wind in the Celtic Sea. It is the first of the stepping-stone projects required to launch a new chapter in the development of offshore energy in the southwest; a new industry that can deliver significant benefits for the local supply chain and the coastal communities of Wales and the wider UK.”
Photo credit: Principle Power/Dock90