A new report commissioned by the Crown Estate Scotland has found that not only does floating offshore wind have an important role to play in the UK’s plans to generate 50 gigawatts (GW) from offshore wind by 2050 but that it could support up to 17,000 jobs and provide £33.6 billion in added value.
The UK offshore wind industry is, by a significant margin, the most developed and busy in the world, with over 7 GW worth of operational offshore capacity and a further 7 GW under construction or with contracts secured. It gets better, too, when you expand the definition of “pipeline” to include projects in development, bringing the UK’s offshore wind portfolio up to over 35 GW. The UK is, therefore, and unsurprisingly, the world’s floating offshore wind leader as well, home to the only (currently) operational floating offshore wind farm — the 30 MW Hywind Scotland which began operations in late 2017 and which quickly began outperforming expectations. (What is expected to be the world’s second floating offshore wind farm took a further step forward last week in Portugal.)
Moving forward, though, if the UK is to successfully reach its target of 50 GW worth of offshore wind by 2050, then floating offshore wind will need to become an increasingly important component in this equation, contributing at least 10 GW by 2050. Further, the reality is that there is a significantly larger potential for floating offshore wind than there is for fixed-bottom offshore wind — which is to say, there is more deep water than there is shallow water.
As such, according to a report commissioned by the Crown Estate Scotland and authored by the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, the UK floating offshore wind industry has the potential to support up to 17,000 jobs by 2050 and generate gross value added of £33.6 billion.
“At a time when the need to tackle climate change has never been greater or starker, and policy support for innovation, industrialisation and regeneration of high-quality jobs is increasing, the floating wind opportunity ticks all the boxes,” explained Sian Wilson, senior development manager at Crown Estate Scotland. “Thousands of UK jobs, global exports and clean and secure energy generation are all up for grabs – if the right government support is in place.”
“Offshore wind will play a significant role in the UK in maximising the economic and industrial benefits of renewable energy generation,” added ORE Catapult’s Head of Insights Gavin Smart, author of the report. “However, to reach anything like its full potential will require a significant contribution from floating wind.
“A key part of this study has been industry engagement in formulating and testing assumptions. This has highlighted the strengths of the UK supply chain to serve the domestic and export markets, leveraging heavily from a proven track record in offshore wind and oil and gas.
“With an increasing focus on carbon emissions reductions globally, and the suitability of floating wind technologies to a wide range of water depths and seabed conditions, the UK is well-placed to capitalise on the export opportunities in this growing global market.”
The report explains that floating wind will likely support the UK offshore wind supply chain, with 57% UK content expected by 2031 and 65% by 2050, providing both jobs and retaining skills for a declining yet important UK oil and gas sector.
By building up a solid floating offshore wind industry now, the UK will also put itself in a position to deliver significant export value and farm out expertise. Floating offshore wind markets are emerging in Japan, the US, China, Taiwan, Korea, Norway, Spain, and Portugal, and the total market is currently estimated to grow to at least 4 GW by 2030 and 55 GW by 2050, representing annual markets of at least £3.1 billion by 2030 and £7.1 billion by 2050. As such, ORE Catapult expects the UK could deliver annual export value of at least £230 million by 2031 and £550 million by 2050.
The floating offshore wind industry will be specifically important to Scotland, one of four countries that make up the United Kingdom, and one of the world’s leading individual offshore wind powerhouses.
“Scotland’s deep waters, with some of Europe’s strongest winds, provide ideal conditions for the testing and deployment of floating offshore wind turbines, and are part of the reason why our seas are home to Hywind, the world’s first floating wind farm,” said Stephanie Conesa, Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables. “The recent publication of Marine Scotland’s draft Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind Energy – which sets out potential future locations for offshore wind farms in Scotland’s seas – makes the success of floating offshore wind in Scotland more important than ever.
“Floating wind provides an enormous economic opportunity for Scotland and its development, as well as that of other earlier-stage technologies, has the potential to provide renewable electricity in locations where other renewable energy devices cannot be deployed.”
“We urgently need to deploy clean energy to tackle climate change and protect people and nature,” added Gina Hanrahan, Head of Policy at WWF Scotland. “Innovation is key to this so it’s exciting to see the industrial potential of the floating offshore wind industry mapped out. If these benefits are to be realised, the sector will need support from the UK Government.”