Green light for Wales’ first floating offshore wind farm

Image: OWC

First Minister Mark Drakeford has today (13 March) confirmed the green light for the 100MW Erebus wind far, which is being developed collaboratively by TotalEnergies and Simply Blue Group under a joint venture called Blue Gem Group.

Blue Gem Group is aiming to have the seven-turbine wind farm up and running 40km off the Pembrokeshire coast in 2026. It is then eyeing a potential expansion in the future.

The Crown Estate which is responsible for leasing plots of the seabed to wind farm developers, has stated that there is scope for up to 24GW of floating offshore wind capacity in the Celtic Sea. It has already committed to leasing rounds for up to 4GW of offshore floating wind by 2035.

Offshore floating wind is in its relative infancy in the UK but is an option for harnessing wind from sites further offshore than can be accessed with traditional turbines.

Commenting on the Erebus project, Drakeford said: “We are ambitious for the floating offshore wind sector in Wales – we believe it has the potential to deliver sustainable sources of energy into the future and it is also a once-in-a-generation opportunity to open up new markets for local suppliers and to create thousands of high-quality jobs in Wales.

“The Erebus project has the potential to show the world that Wales and the Celtic Sea can deliver renewable energy alongside the sustainable management of our marine resources.

“In determining the marine license and the planning consents, the Welsh Government and our partners in Natural Resources Wales have enabled this project to move forward to apply for subsidy support from the UK government.”

The subsidy support has been requested through the UK Government’s Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction process, which is held annually. The last round was held last July, allocating support to 93 projects totalling 11GW of capacity. Floating offshore wind was eligible for the first time and support was allocated to projects covering 32MW of capacity.

The news on Erebus comes shortly after the Welsh Affairs Committee released a new report imploring the UK Government to implement enabling policies for floating wind, which it described as “the single biggest investment opportunity for decades”. As well as CfD reforms, the Committee is advocating stricter requirements for developers to support local supply chains.

Pumped hydro

In other renewable energy news for the UK, Drax has appointed engineering consultants for its project to build the Uk’s first new pumped storage hydro plant in more than 30 years.

Pumped hydro storage schemes use reversible turbines to pump water into a reservoir to store excess power when supply is greater than demand. Stored water can then be pumped in the opposite direction to generate renewable electricity when demand is higher.

Drax has appointed Studio Pietrangeli to work on the design of the new plant, which will be based next to Drax’s existing 40MW Cruachan facility. Drax is planning to more than double the Cruachan facility’s capacity by 2030, should planning and delivery processes run to time. A planning application was filed in May 2022.

“This is a significant moment in Drax’s planned expansion of Cruachan,” commented Ian Kinnaird, Drax’s Scottish Assets Director.

“The scale of the proposed development matches Drax’s ambitions when it comes to tackling the climate crisis…. Pumped storage hydro is vital to strengthening the UK’s energy security by enabling more homegrown renewable electricity to come online, cutting the need to import power or fossil fuels from abroad. This will be a major infrastructure project which will support hundreds of jobs and provide a real boost to Scotland’s economy.”

The release of Drax’s annual results last month reignited debate about the company’s true climate impact. As well as operating pumped hydro, Drax is best known for its power plant in Selby, which is being converted from coal to biomass. Carbon capture is being fitted as part of this process.

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