Report: UK’s floating offshore wind pipeline grows by one-third in a year

A new report by RenewableUK has revealed that the UK’s floating offshore wind industry is experiencing a surge in growth, with the project pipeline expanding by 32% in the past year, raising the capacity from 185 gigawatts (GW) to 244GW.

Report: UK’s floating offshore wind pipeline grows by one-third in a year

This surge is matched by a rise in the number of projects globally, growing from 230 to 285, including projects at various stages such as operational, under construction, approved, in the planning system, or at an early stage of development.

Currently, 227 megawatts (MW) of floating wind are operational across 14 projects in seven countries. Norway leads with 94MW across three projects, while the UK follows with 80MW from two projects. Portugal has 25MW from one project, and China ranks fourth with 19MW across three projects. Japan and Spain each have 5MW from two projects, while France contributes 2MW from one project.

RenewableUK’s chief executive Dan McGrail said: “This report shows that although the UK is a world leader in floating wind, other countries are eyeing the massive economic opportunity offered by this innovative technology and are determined to get a slice of the action. The international competition for investment is intensifying rapidly.

“We urgently need a step-change from our partners in Government to ensure that this cutting-edge industry can attract billions in investment to boost deployment and build up new supply chains, rather than focussing solely on a race to the bottom on prices.”

Globally, 46MW are under construction, with three projects in progress, and 576MW are consented or in the pre-construction phase across 11 projects. 68GW are in the planning system or have lease agreements, spanning 80 projects, and 175GW are in early development or applying for leases, involving 177 projects.

Nearly two-thirds of the global floating wind capacity announced thus far is in European waters, with 160GW in development. The UK accounts for 35GW of this total, with a considerable portion (29GW) located in Scottish waters.

Earlier this year, the Welsh Government granted planning consent for the nation’s first 100MW floating wind farm, with a projected operational start date in 2026.

Beyond Europe, projects are being developed off the west coast of the USA, the southeast coast of Australia, and South Korea.

Looking ahead

The report anticipates the demand for floating foundations to accelerate. It suggests the potential for 472 floating foundations in the UK by the end of 2032. In Europe, this number could rise to 1,369, and globally, there could be as many as 1,924 floating foundations by the same year, underlining the sector’s growth prospects.

RenewableUK predicts that floating wind will play a significant role in the UK’s offshore wind generation, accounting for more than half by 2050. This transition is projected to generate approximately £43.6bn in economic value and create more than 29,000 jobs.

It is also expected to serve as a catalyst for the regeneration of coastal communities, with an estimated £4bn earmarked for transforming up to eleven ports across the UK into hubs for mass floating wind deployment by the end of the decade.

Moreover, a recent analysis from the UK’s Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC) disclosed that the expansion of the country’s offshore wind supply chain could lead to a £92bn economic boost to the nation by the year 2040.

While the UK government’s target of reaching 5GW of floating wind in UK waters by 2030 remains achievable, RenewableUK emphasises the importance of sustainable parameters in future Contracts for Difference (CfD) auctions.

According to the report, these parameters will be instrumental in maximising deployment, reducing costs, and incentivising investments in domestic supply chains. This year’s CfD auction did not secure any new floating wind capacity, despite 250MW of shovel-ready capacity being available.

McGrail added: “To ensure that the UK seizes the industrial benefits of developing state-of-the-art technology and revitalising ports around the country, we need to see sustainable prices to enable stepping-stone projects to go ahead in a successful auction next year, and every year going forward.”

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