Floating wind farms can be hosted in Cornwall and Wales, says crown property | energy sector

Floating wind farms could be built on the coasts of Cornwall and Pembrokeshire after the Queen’s estate manager identified a handful of sites on the Celtic Sea that could host them.

The crown estate, which generates money for the Treasury and the royal family, has published five “research areas” that will be reduced to development lots to house wind power generation.

Once the project development areas are agreed, they will be offered to companies through a bidding process, which should be launched in mid-2023.

Crown property expects these areas to provide 4 gigawatts of floating offshore wind by 2035, powering nearly 4 million homes.

Sites in the Celtic Sea identified as possibilities for floating wind farms

Offshore wind farms are typically built on the seabed close to the coast. Structures that can be hosted in the Celtic Sea allow turbines to be installed on floating concrete and steel platforms, which are anchored to the seabed via anchors or flexible cables and are just above or below the waterline.

The innovation means they can be located in deeper waters, creating less opposition from locals and companies ashore that don’t like the presence of wind turbines for aesthetic reasons. It also means structures benefit from stronger winds and are less likely to cause conflicts with fishing fleets or disturb bird nests and naval bases.

The crown estate said it identified the search areas by studying several factors, including “shipping routes, fishing activity and environmental sensitivities”. The wind farms will not be visible from land, apart from a potential site north of the Isles of Scilly, he said.

At a stakeholder meeting earlier this year, concerns were raised about whether floating wind farms would cause problems for fishing equipment on vessels fishing for crab and lobster in the area. There have also been calls for the size of buffer zones between farms and nearby boats to be expanded.

Wind farms could also be co-located with carbon capture and storage schemes or coordinate activities with telecom cabling projects, stakeholders said.

Last month, the crown estate said a record auction of lots for offshore wind farms had boosted the value of its maritime business by 22% from last year to £5bn.

In addition to its Celtic Sea ambitions, the property has granted licenses for six offshore wind farms off the coast of England and Wales, which could generate up to £9bn over the next 10 years. Successful bidders included Germany’s RWE Renewables and a consortium, which includes oil company BP.

Profits for the crown estate jumped from £43.4m to £312.7m in the year to the end of March.

The estate hands over all of its profits to the Treasury before 25% is returned to the royal family in the form of a sovereign grant, a funding formula that is under government review. The endowment was increased in 2017 from its previous level of 15% to pay for extensive renovations to Buckingham Palace.

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Huub den Rooijen, managing director of the navy at the Crown Estate, said: “The Celtic Sea has the potential to become one of the world’s great renewable energy basins, bringing economic growth and abundant clean energy.”

Energy Minister Greg Hands said: “We already have the largest deployment of offshore wind power in Europe. Floating technology is the key to unlocking the full potential of our coastline.”

Earlier this year, the Scottish arm of the crown’s ownership auctioned off the maritime space for 17 projects, with the majority of the capacity earmarked for offshore wind. The first floating offshore wind farm has been in operation in Scotland since 2017.

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