UK urged to ‘transform’ 11 ports to support floating offshore wind boom

The government has been urged to “transform” up to 11 ports around the UK in order to enable the roll-out of floating offshore wind at scale

A report by the Global Wind Energy Council’s (GWEC) Floating Offshore Wind Taskforce contains a series of recommendations which could see 34 gigawatts (GW) of floating wind installed in UK waters by 2040 if “decisive action” is taken by the government. Ministers have so far set a target to install just 5GW by 2030, despite plans to fully decarbonise electricity generation by 2035.

The UK currently has the biggest project pipeline in the world of 37GW of floating wind technology, around one-fifth of the global pipeline. Floating wind farms can be built in deeper waters, further from the coast, where wind speeds are even higher.

To enable the UK to scale up, the report recommends developing ports as soon as possible by investing £4bn to ensure they are ready for mass floating wind deployment by the end of this decade.

Port upgrades will be needed to enable turbines with hub heights taller than 150 metres and their giant floating bases to be manufactured and assembled in coastal locations, the report said. The initial focus will be on Scottish ports and the Celtic Sea where floating projects are currently being planned.

To start, a minimum of three to five ports will be needed in Scotland to install turbines onto the floating bases, with a further two ports needed to service the Celtic Sea sector.

At least four other UK ports will need to be revitalised for manufacturing the massive steel and concrete components for floating foundations. More ships and bigger cranes will also be required in the construction process.

The report finds that implementing the recommendations required to reach 34GW of floating wind by 2040 will generate £26.6bn in additional economic activity in the UK.

RenewableUK’s emerging technologies policy analyst Laurie Heyworth, who worked on the report, said: “Getting onto the front foot to make the most of our enormous floating wind resource is essential to boost Britain’s energy security and deliver net zero as fast as possible.

“At the moment there are no port facilities in this country which are fit for the mass deployment of floating wind, so we need to start revitalising them now as new industrial hubs, so that we’re ready for this new sector to take off at scale by 2030. The timeline is tight and we will only be able to deliver on our ambition if we take action promptly and decisively.”

In October last year, RenewableUK found that the total global pipeline of floating offshore wind projects doubled in 2022 reaching 185GW.

Nicola Clay, head of new ventures at The Crown Estate, said: “There is a huge opportunity for the UK to show international leadership in the race to deploy this new technology at scale. However, it is clear from our own dialogue with developers and ports that this must go hand in hand with the rapid establishment of a new supply chain and upgrading ports.

“This will require collaboration, confidence and investment by all involved if the UK is to build the foundations for this industry to truly thrive and realise the full range of benefits on offer.”

The Floating Offshore Wind Taskforce includes the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments, the Northern Ireland Executive, major offshore wind and port developers, The Crown Estate, Crown Estate Scotland, RenewableUK, Scottish Renewables, the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult and other stakeholders.

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