Floating wind farms in the Celtic Sea could soon be a reality after the plans were shortlisted for government cash.
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the public body which distributes funding, has chosen more than a dozen schemes to go forward for bidding.
The list includes the South West Floating Offshore Wind Accelerator, which means the team now has to put together a detailed bid for more than £30 million from a fund called Strength in Places.
Cornwall Council-owned renewable energy research company Wave Hub, in Hayle, is behind the wind farm project, which would see large scale floating wind farms in the sea from 2025.
It has been working with the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Plymouth and Exeter Universities, the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, A&P Group, Cornwall Council and Plymouth City Council.
The idea is that floating platforms can access stronger winds in deeper waters than conventional fixed offshore wind turbines. The Celtic Sea, which is an area off the coast of Cornwall and West Wales and south of Ireland, has one of the best wind resources in Europe.
Executive chairperson of Wave Hub, Steve Jermy, said everyone was delighted the strength of the bid had been recognised.
He added: “We have the potential to make a decisive contribution to the UK’s offshore wind energy targets by developing a new floating wind industry which can create thousands of jobs with huge export potential.”
Chairperson of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP, Mark Duddridge, said the project is about global innovation, adding: “It is a cornerstone of our Local Industrial Strategy and is an opportunity to lead a post-pandemic green recovery and make a huge contribution to the UK’s economy and the fight against climate change.”
A report, published earlier this year by ORE Catapult and commissioned by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP and the Welsh Government, said a floating wind industry in the Celtic Sea could support 3,200 jobs in the South West and Wales and £682m of spend in the local supply chain by 2030, powering hundreds of thousands of homes.
Professor Deborah Greaves, from Plymouth University, is director of the Supergen Offshore Renewable Energy Hub.
She said: “The South West is perfectly placed to advance the development of offshore renewable energy on behalf of the whole country – something which has been acknowledged by UKRI through this funding award.
“And the University, with its pedigree for research, development and innovation in the renewables sector, is excited to be at the heart of the floating wind project as we now look to work up a full bid.”
The scheme has been described as a one-off opportunity.
Profesor Lars Johanning, from Exeter University, said: “The deployment of industrial scale floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea represents a once in a generation opportunity to drive investment and economic growth in Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly, Wales and the Great South West.
“Developer interest and activity has already commenced and there needs to be an industrial response to the supply chain opportunity. This has now seen a further boost.”
Cornwall Council’s Tim Dwelly, responsible for economy, culture and planning said the potential to generate new jobs as well as green energy on a massive scale was exciting.
He added: “This project is about ensuring local businesses and residents are given the support and skills they need to be at the forefront of this new industry as it grows rapidly in the coming years.”
And the Local Enterprise Partnerships said the initiative could be a blueprint for the rest of the country.
Steve Hindley, chairperson of the Great South West Partnership – which includes the LEP areas in Dorset, the Heart of the South West and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly – said: “This is a fantastic project with national as well as regional significance. The Great South West is a powerhouse economy with the ambition and potential to become the UK leader in the green and blue economy, with projects such as this one delivering clean energy and generating clean growth.”
Now it has been shortlisted, the UKRI will give £50,000 of help to work up a full stage bid to be submitted in November. Awards will be announced next year.