The Crown Estate announces investment in marine surveys

The Crown Estate accelerates plans for floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea with multi-million pound programme of marine surveys

The Crown Estate announces investment in marine surveys
Photo: The Crown Estate

The awarding of the first contracts marks an important step in what is anticipated to be a multi-million pound series of technical and environmental surveys around potential locations for new floating wind farms.

The Crown Estate, which manages the seabed around England, Wales and Northern Ireland, has set out ambitious plans to deliver an initial 4GW of energy capacity in the Celtic Sea by 2035, with the region assessed to have the potential to accommodate up to 24GW by 2045. This would be one of the first uses of new floating wind technology on a commercial scale, with further rapid growth expected as the technology, supply chain and infrastructure mature.

Over the last year, The Crown Estate has been working with its technical advisors, alongside industry and other stakeholders, including statutory nature conservation bodies, to develop a programme of surveys which will deliver strong, reliable and useful datasets for developers. Precise specifications will be kept under review as the programme progresses, but will cover a range of important areas, including the geophysical and geotechnical properties of the seabed, wind, wave and current patterns, and marine wildlife.

As well as providing successful bidders with easy access to vital data and speeding up the development process, 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.

Contracts have now been signed for the initial phase of metocean surveys, which look at wind, wave and current patterns, to begin in Spring 2023. The Crown Estate is progressing the procurement of the remaining surveys over the coming weeks and months, subject to further commercial discussions.

The Crown Estate is developing its leasing approach for the Celtic Sea floating offshore wind programme through close engagement with other key stakeholders, including but not limited to the UK and Welsh governments and industry, to understand their plans to drive investment in infrastructure, innovation and skills.

In October, The Crown Estate updated developers on how it intends to support the opportunities presented by floating wind in the Celtic Sea, including through early investment in pre-consent surveys and seeking to streamline the programme to accelerate the development of projects. Further work is underway to engage the market with a view to supporting such investment through supply chain requirements as part of the leasing tender process. The Crown Estate expects to provide further updates to developers in the first half of 2023 ahead of the official launch of the leasing tender.

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.

“We are also considering how else our proposals for The Celtic Sea can support the investment in supply chains and infrastructure that this new market will need. We have been clear this will form an integral part of the tender process for the upcoming leasing round, and we remain in dialogue with UK and Welsh governments to better understand their own approaches to supply chain development. By working together to address these challenges, we can put in place the foundations for clean energy and economic opportunity for generations to come.”

Tim Pick, Co-Chair of the Offshore Wind Acceleration Taskforce, said:

“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.”