Crown Estate accelerates Celtic Sea floating offshore wind surveys

The Crown Estate has announced the awarding of the first contracts for its first major investment in surveys to help with the construction of floating offshore wind farms in the Celtic Sea.

Hywind Scotland (Source: Equinor)

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 offshore wind farms, the Crown Estate said.

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.

By investing in these surveys at an early stage and making the data freely available to successful bidders, the Crown Estate is aiming to accelerate the delivery of the projects, making 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.

Precise specifications will be kept under review as the programme progresses, the Crown Estate said, but will cover a range of important areas, including the geophysical and geotechnical properties of the seabed, wind, wave, and current patterns, as well as 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 the best use of limited specialist survey resource, according to the Crown Estate.

“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”, said Nicola Clay, Head of New Ventures.

In October, the Crown Estate, which manages the seabed around England, Wales and Northern Ireland, updated developers on how it intends to support the opportunities presented by the floating wind in the Celtic Sea.

The seabed authority is currently refining its broad “Areas of Search” into a series of smaller Project Development Areas (PDAs).

In order to further accelerate the leasing process, the work to identify the final PDAs is being undertaken simultaneously with the plan-level Habitats Regulations Assessment.

The project development areas will be offered to the market via competitive tender, to be launched in mid-2023.

The Crown Estate has set a plan to deliver an initial 4 GW of energy capacity in the Celtic Sea by 2035, with the region assessed to have the potential to accommodate up to 24 GW by 2045.