ScottishPower and Shell bid to develop large-scale floating windfarms in UK

ScottishPower and Shell claim it would be the “world’s first large-scale” system for the technology

The two companies have submitted the bid to create a cluster of new large-scale floating offshore windfarms as part of the Crown Estate Scotland’s ScotWind Leasing, which closed for submissions today (16 July).

No details have been provided as to the capacity or potential output of the windfarms, but ScottishPower and Shell claim it would be the “world’s first large-scale” system for the technology. A decision will be made when ScotWind announces successful applicants in 2022.

Floating offshore wind is primed for use in deeper water, where fixed foundations aren’t possible. It can also deliver higher capacity outputs than traditional offshore windfarms. Equinor’s Hywind Scotland project – the world’s first floating offshore wind farm – delivered an average capacity factor of 57.1%. The capacity factor accounts for the ratio of actual energy output compared to the maximum possible output. In comparison, the UK average for offshore wind is 40%.

ScottishPower’s chief executive, Keith Anderson, said: “Scotland is the windiest country in Europe and has the biggest and most experienced offshore sector. Bringing ScottishPower and Shell’s collective knowledge, experience and expertise together means we’re perfectly placed to lead the way in developing large-scale offshore floating windfarms and creating a new green industry with massive potential for exporting our skills and experience globally and helping the UK decarbonise its energy generation.

“With just a few months until the COP26 UN Climate Change Summit in Glasgow, ScotWind will help create a whole new industry in floating wind that will play a crucial role in putting the country on course for a cleaner and greener future.”

Floats and nets

Boris Johnson’s vision for the UK to host 40GW of offshore wind by 2030 has provided a confidence boost to an already established technology, and green groups are calling for that level of ambition to be matched for technologies such as floating and onshore wind.

The UK has set a formal target for floating offshore wind, committing to hosting 1GW by 2030.

Research suggests that investment into net-zero technologies such as floating offshore wind and clean hydrogen could capture up to £125bn in annual benefits from the North Sea energy sector.

Analysis by OGTC and Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult outlines that new policy that attracts investment into the North Sea energy sector could support 232,000 jobs as part of the net-zero target for 2050. This would deliver a 66% increase on current levels. This would require more than £400bn in front-loaded investment over the next 30 years, the report states.

The Government is aiming to support more clean technologies on the road to net-zero. Ministers recently confirmed that the fourth round of the CfD scheme will open in late 2021 and will aim to double the 5.8GW of renewable capacity procured in the previous round. Up to 12GW of renewables are being targeted to assist with the nation’s net-zero emissions target for 2050.

The number of technologies supported by the scheme will also be expanded in the latest round, with offshore wind, onshore wind, solar, tidal and floating offshore wind projects all eligible to bid. It marks the first time that floating offshore has been eligible for the scheme and the first time since 2015 that onshore wind and solar have been included.

A floating offshore wind turbine testing facility at the University of Plymouth has already gained access to part of a £213m government investment pot that aims to upgrade scientific approaches to combatting Covid-19 and the climate crisis that was introduced at the start of the year.

Shell UK’s country chair, David Bunch said: “If our bid is successful, Shell and SPR are fully committed to working with Scottish communities and businesses to help develop supply chains and expertise which could make Scotland a world leader in floating wind. At Shell, we continue to grow our capacity to generate, trade and supply cleaner power to our customers and to play our part in powering the UK to net-zero.”

Matt Mace

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