The Crown Estate and UK government have today launched a new offshore wind partnership to protect and restore the country’s marine environment as it seeks to chart a course towards net-zero emissions by unlocking the green energy potential of the UK seabed.
The partnership will be led by The Crown Estate, which has committed to a five-year £25m kick-starter investment for the programme, alongside strategic partners the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Together with the devolved governments, the collaboration will bring together more than 20 stakeholder organisations and support the government’s wider efforts to develop a vision for the future of the offshore wind sector.
The Programme’s strategic research and data projects will provide insights to help the sector better understand and address environmental considerations and interactions with other industries and activities, both around the coast and offshore.
This will enable a more coordinated and strategic approach to the delivery of the new infrastructure required to deliver net-zero emissions by 2050, to ensure the sector can deliver at pace while protecting the broader natural environment.
Initial projects through the partnership, include an East Coast Grid Spatial study, to be delivered with National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO), National Grid Electricity Transmission and The Marine Management Organisation.
This will help build understanding of the interactions that future offshore wind farms on the east coast of England are likely to face when connecting into the electricity network and whether alternative approaches to connection can reduce community and environmental impacts.
There is also to be a Future Offshore Wind Scenarios project, which will be a UK-wide study delivered with Crown Estate Scotland and BEIS.
The project will develop and examine spatial scenarios, to better understand the opportunities for future offshore wind deployment.
Offshore Wind Industry Council co-chair and Vattenfall UK country manager Danielle Lane, said: “This programme will help to ensure that we continue to install vitally-needed new offshore wind capacity in an environmentally sensitive way.
“Safeguarding our precious marine ecosystem is a key factor in the way we work as responsible developers.
“Minimising any impact of the infrastructure needed to connect our projects to the electricity network is as important to us as it is to local communities which are being regenerated by offshore wind.
“This ambitious programme brings together industry, government and wildlife organisations to create a new forum which will help us to reach the Prime Minister’s target of 40GW of offshore wind by 2030 while protecting wildlife and working closer with the communities hosting us”.
The Crown Estate chief executive Dan Labbad said: “Recognising the crucial role of the nation’s seabed on our path to net zero, I’m delighted to launch this new partnership which will help lay sustainable foundations for the next phase of the offshore wind success story, in a way which will help us to maintain healthy, biodiverse seas.
“The partnership will be at the centre of how we ensure a more coordinated approach to delivering the infrastructure that will be required to tackle climate change.”
UK Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng said: “The UK is already a world leader in offshore wind energy and the Government’s Ten Point Plan has laid out a bold ambition to lead the green industrial revolution by embracing innovative new technologies.
“Creating jobs and increasing capacity to 40 GW by the end of this decade will be key to helping us reach our commitment for net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but safeguarding our precious marine environment remains a priority, which is why this partnership is so important.”
UK Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “It is important that we all work together to bring about change and reduce our contribution to climate change.
“Renewable energy plays a key role in this and as we work to increase renewable sources of energy we must ensure that our precious marine environment is protected at the same time.
“I am delighted that Defra is a part of this programme, providing expert advice relating to the growing calls on our marine space so that we can deliver offshore developments while protecting our unique marine resources.”
The programme also brings together a steering group which includes Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland government bodies, regulators including the Marine Management Organisation, non-governmental organisations such as RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts, and RenewableUK on behalf of the industry.
The partnership is borne out of last year’s Offshore Wind Sector Deal, which aims to build on the UK’s global leadership in offshore wind and maximise economic benefits across the whole of the UK.
GE Renewable Energy has launched a 6 MW turbine, the US manufacturer’s most powerful onshore machine.
The unit, which features a 164-metre rotor, is part of the Cypress platform and will increase annual energy production by up to 11% compared with the 5.3-158 model.
The new machine will feature a two-piece blade, and GE says it is designed with servicing in mind by facilitating up-tower repairs and featuring condition-based predictive services that will improve return-to-service and uptime, while lowering lifecycle costs.
The 6 MW turbine will be ready for deployment by 2022, the company said.
GE Onshore Wind Europe boss Peter Wells said: “The Cypress platform is already providing our customers the ability to lower the cost of onshore wind and gain added flexibility in siting turbines.
“This latest product in the platform will help them drive additional growth of clean, renewable wind power across Europe and beyond.”
Since its introduction, GE Renewable Energy has received more than 3.4
GW of orders for its Cypress turbines in multiple European countries including Germany, Austria, Sweden, and Lithuania, as well as Brazil, Australia, and Turkey.
The latest unit in the Cypress platform will fully leverage resources across GE and was developed in partnership between GE’s Onshore Wind business, GE’s Global Research Center and LM Wind Power, a GE Renewable Energy business.
ScottishPower Renewables chief executive Lindsay McQuade has called for a “forward-looking” and “cohesive” wind policy approach to support UK wind.
Speaking at the start of UK Wind Week 2020, she said ‘that while many of the building blocks are in place” a joined-up approach was needed “across planning, grid, supply chain and energy policy”. She said that would “help us deliver the outcomes that will benefit the environment, aid the transition to green transport and heating, and support the economy by catalysing investment, creating green jobs, and firmly marking out the UK’s position as a global leader in wind”.
McQuade said the week was a chance to “celebrate the fabulous natural resource we have in Great Britain and its central role in shaping a low-carbon energy system” that could help deliver a green recovery and support ambitious climate targets towards net zero.
She said increasing renewables to support an “all-electric future” was central to these targets, adding: “while that may sound straightforward, in practice it means quadrupling generation from renewable sources output across the UK in the coming decades, with wind generation doing the heavy lifting”.
Onshore, offshore and floating wind each presented significant opportunities “the length and breadth of the country”, she added.
Onshore is the lowest cost and most proven “means of delivering rapid decarbonisation at scale” within investment in it making “perfect sense” and delivering jobs and community benefits.
“The onshore wind farms ScottishPower will be investing in will be cutting-edge – embracing innovative solutions and the latest technologies to allow hybridisation with solar PV and battery storage, so that green energy will produce electricity and also have an effective role in supporting a resilient and flexible electricity grid system.”
She said that would allow use of natural resources and existing grid connections to be optimised, generation maximised, and deliver cost-effective electricity, and highlighted SPR’s plans to invest over £3.7bn in the five years to 2025, doubling its renewables capacity.
She added: “This includes construction of around 2.1GW of innovative onshore wind, solar PV and battery storage projects across the UK, some of which will be hybrid ‘energy parks’, as well as developing our plans for a 3.1GW offshore East Anglia Hub.
“A further 3GW of onshore projects are also being progressed as part of our pipeline beyond 2025.”
She said: “We estimate it will support more than 7000 jobs in a range of occupations – we will need technicians, project managers, engineers, analysts, lawyers, and even ecologists to make this happen.
“The range of career opportunities presented by investing in wind generation is exciting and inspiring for those considering how they want to make a contribution to a better future, quicker.
“With billions of pounds of investment supporting an extensive supply chain, creating thousands of jobs, and delivering economic and social benefits to local people, businesses and communities, the UK needs to grasp the opportunity and work to establish the policies and frameworks from which these outcomes can be achieved – all with the goal of Net Zero in mind.”
UK Energy Ministry BEIS will allocate supports for up to 12 GW of new renewables projects at its Contracts for Difference Round Four (CfD4) auction which will open late next year.
The round will feature three pots for different technologies, which will all compete for 15-year government subsidies. The 12 GW capacity is over twice as large as 2019’s 5.8GW CfD3.
Offshore wind will have its own standalone ‘Pot 3’, in line with plans mooted during consultations on the round earlier this year.
‘Pot 1’ will comprise established technologies including onshore wind and solar – marking the first time since 2015 these two technologies can bid for supports.
Scottish Renewables policy director Morag Wilson said the association welcomed the CfD scheme and its inclusion of onshore wind and the dedicated pot for offshore wind and support for innovative technologies such as floating wind.
Wilson added: “However, differences between Scotland and the rest of the UK need to be accounted for in all areas to ensure there is a level playing field for Scottish projects, particularly the disproportionate impact transmission charging costs pose for Scottish projects.
“Not addressing these disadvantages will hamper progress towards a geographically diverse energy system and reaching the level of deployment needed to achieve net zero.”
Solar Trade Association chief executive Chris Hewett said: “Today’s announcement opens the door to significant numbers of subsidy-free solar projects being developed over the next few years.
“Many responses, including our own, highlighted the merit of having more frequent auctions, and this is something that the Government must implement if it is to maximise the economic and climate potential of renewables.
“Large solar projects can be deployed rapidly, offering a swift, job intensive contribution to a green economic recovery.”
Next year’s auction will also be the first time floating offshore wind can compete.
Floating projects will be placed in a ‘Pot 2’ for less established technologies alongside Advanced Conversion Technologies and tidal stream.
Former coal stations converted to biomass generation will be excluded from the round.
“The UK is a world leader in clean energy, with over a third of our electricity now coming from renewables,” said UK Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng.
“That huge achievement is thanks to the government’s Contracts for Difference scheme.”
“The new plans…put us firmly on the path towards building a new, green industrial revolution,” he said.
The Government will meanwhile launch a fresh consultation on new proposals for the supply chain plan mechanism in a bid to boost local content levels.
The proposals are designed to increase the clarity, ambition and measurability of commitments made by renewable project developers when they bid for contracts in the CfD scheme, and to introduce new measures if they subsequently fail to deliver on those commitments.
“Next year’s renewable power auctions can unlock over £20bn of new investment in the economy and secure an unprecedented amount of low cost, clean electricity for consumers using the full range of renewable technologies we have available,” said RenewableUK chief executive Hugh McNeal.
McNeal welcomed the round’s inclusion of onshore wind.
“As one of our lowest cost, large scale power options, onshore wind has a vital role to play in meeting the challenge of net zero and the re-opening of CfD auctions is an important step to ramp up investment in this key technology,” he said.
A global consortium is said to be backing plans to create an artificial island in Swansea Bay that would offer housing and generate renewable energy.
The ambition is to create a Dubai-style island that would offer housing, while also using it as a site to harness wind and solar power as well as tidal energy from a surrounding tidal barrier lagoon containing water turbines.
The consortium behind the Dragon Energy Island development has not yet been publicly revealed.
Welsh innovation group DST, which is working to bring the plan to life, said the members would be revealed in early 2021 when a full schedule of proposals is published.
DST, the driving force behind the consortium, is the inventors of ground-breaking large scale battery technology enabling efficient and sustainable energy storage.
The energy storage capabilities are vital to the success of the Dragon Energy Island, solving the problem of storing the energy created by natural power.
“We’re delighted our technology can be utilised in a project of this magnitude.
“Our products are designed in Wales and this is an amazing opportunity for us to harness the wonderful natural resources we have in our home nation and unlock the abundance of innovation and talent we hold here” said a DST spokesperson.
Rob Stewart, Leader of Swansea Council said “Swansea bay offers an unprecedented opportunity to deliver the world’s first truly integrated tidal energy project.
“This project has the potential to spur a new industry not just for Swansea but for Wales and the UK.
“The impacts on employment and our local economy are set to be significant and perfectly timed as we address the post-covid economy.
“We remain 100% committed to seeing the project delivered in Swansea and are grateful for all of the efforts made by DST to bring together such a strong consortium of organisations with a proven track record of success.”
Subcontractor Jones Bros Civil Engineering has begun the first section of earthworks for the converter stations for the 3.6 GW Dogger Bank offshore wind farm.
The converter stations, south of Beverley in the East Riding of Yorkshire, will receive an AC current via the cables from the wind turbines and convert it to a DC current before sending it to the National Grid.
Dogger Bank will be located more than 130km off the Yorkshire coast in the North Sea and is being developed in three 1.2GW phases by joint venture partners SSE Renewables and Equinor.
The project is the first wind farm in the world to use HVDC technology, due to its distance from shore.
The HVDC route comprises of 30km of ducting with trenches totalling 120km for ducting and cables.
Horizontal directional drilling is also taking place to install the cabling ducting beneath existing structures, including roads, railways, canals, common land and rivers with minimal disruption.
Jones Bros is also continuing to build access tracks, with 13km in place since the civil engineering contractor started on site earlier in the year.
The full works are expected to take two and a half years to complete. Jones Bros contracts director Garod Evans said: “We have more than 30 horizontal drills to carry out, which includes building a drilling pit to allow our supply chain partner Johnston Trenchless Solutions, also UK based, to operate.
“The horizontal drilling method will be used on multiple roads, canals, a river and a railway line to avoid unnecessary disruption.
“The team are also carrying out earthworks and drainage ahead of the installation of the convertor station platform where the cables will run to.”
Dogger Bank Wind Farm project manager Ollie Flattery said: “Jones Brothers have done a fantastic job getting project construction underway in such challenging circumstances, whilst ensuring those working on site, as well as the community in which they are operating are kept safe.
“We look forward to continuing working with Jones Brothers on the project in the months ahead as we develop the innovative infrastructure needed to provide clean energy for millions of UK households.”