Cornwall Chamber of Commerce was recently given a presentation about possible plans for a floating offshore wind farm which could create thousands of new jobs in the region. The plans are to install floating offshore wind farms in the Celtic Sea, and if they’re successful they could create over 3,000 new jobs.
Floating offshore wind is a fast-growing sector worldwide and the government has committed to the UK to reach 40GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030—which is enough to power over 30,000 homes across the UK.
The information was presented to Cornwall Chamber of Commerce by Steve Jermy, the chairman and acting CEO of WaveHub Ltd, who is leading the regional task force created to take forward the plans for floating offshore wind in Cornwall, the South West and Wales.
Mr Jermy explained why offshore floating wind farms provide a fantastic opportunity for the future, rather than turbines that are fixed to the seabed:
"We're currently limited for technical reasons to about 40 metres depth of water for conventional fixed bottom offshore wind turbines," he commented. "But going onto floating platforms allows us to do is go into much deeper waters, potentially as deep as we would want.”
He explained that they can mass-produce floating offshore wind turbine foundations, which is not possible with conventional foundations because each conventional foundation must be built bespoke for seabed conditions, and that the UK is leading the world in offshore wind energy right now, by some margin, too.
However, he said that when you start to look at where the people, he works with are from, it goes beyond the UK. For example, the leading two project developers in the offshore wind business in the UK are Orsted and Vattenfall; Danish and Swedish respectively.
The leading turbine manufacturers are Siemens, general electric investors; German, American and Danish respectively. And the leading offshore contractors are Deme, Jan De Nul and Boskalis—and they’re Benelux countries.
"Let's play spot the British company—it's disappointing really, we could have done better, let's not go into why we are where we are,” said Mr Jermy. “But what I can say is that we have a clean sheet in Cornwall and the Celtic Sea and an opportunity to do things differently and much better in terms of British businesses winning this business."
Currently, the plans for a floating offshore wind farm in Cornwall are in the ‘policy engagement phase’, which started in July 2018.
Mr Jermy explained that he and his team have been several subsequent engagements regarding the plans—some at ministerial level, some at a regional level, and some with the treasury—which has led to securing the policy support required to start building this industry.
There are two key phases. The first being that the project requires revenue support, which would provide the money to get the plans moving and drive down costs so that the turbines can be subsidy-free quickly. The second being that a pipeline of projects in the Celtic Sea would be needed so that developers can go there and bid for further projects and start to build the industry.
"I would say we're just about at the end of the policy phase and starting the shaping phase,” said Mr Jermy. “We're aiming to build the project pipeline and make sure the supply chain in Cornwall and the South West and Wales is ready, so we can maximise UK content on these projects.”
Mr Jermy said the reason we haven’t had offshore wind here so far is that the sea is too deep for conventional turbines, but the depth is “perfect” for floating offshore wind turbines. He went on to outline some of the factors that will determine where the wind farm is located:
"We need to be around 300 miles from the access ports, we need to have grid and power access, and we need to have water depths about right."
There is a Government ambition to hit 40GW by 2030, and the plans for a floating offshore wind farm would support the initiative for greener energy. Currently, the UK produces around 10GW with most of its portfolio in the North Sea. But if this project is successfully completed, it would be the very first project in the Celtic Sea, in any region of the Celtic Sea—creating numerous jobs.
“The Welsh government did an analysis of the supply chain opportunity for floating offshore wind and I think the figure was about 3,200 local jobs,” said Mr Jermy. “We want to ensure the skills are in the region so youngsters who want to work in the area have the STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) skills or marine skills.”
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