Celtic Sea floating offshore wind

What is renewable energy?

Renewable energy comes from resources that are naturally replenished on a human timescale such as sunlight, wind, water and geothermal heat. Renewable energy can be used for electricity generation, heating and cooling.
Renewable energy:
  • is a sustainable energy source
  • is reliable and resilient
  • helps to reduce global warming
  • is environmentally friendly
  • improves public health
  • creates new jobs and other economic benefits.
Cornwall Floating Offshore Wind Accelerator
Image credit: Øyvind Gravås – Equinor

What is wind power?

Wind power is a renewable energy source where wind energy is used to generate mechanical power or electricity. Wind power is usually generated by wind turbines grouped into wind farms that are connected to the electrical grid.
A wind farm is a group of wind turbines in the same location. A large wind farm may consist of several hundred wind turbines distributed over an area.

What is offshore wind power?

Offshore wind power is the generation of electricity through wind farms constructed in bodies of water, usually at sea. 
These installations can be in locations where winds are more frequent and powerful. Although the construction and maintenance costs are considerably higher, they have less visual impact on the landscape than land-based equivalents.
Offshore wind power can include inshore water areas such as lakes, fjords and sheltered coastal areas as well as deeper-water areas. 
Offshore wind farms usually have fixed-foundation wind turbines in relatively shallow water, but there is a growing development for floating wind turbines, which can be deployed in deeper waters.
Simulated image of FLOW
Simulated image of a floating offshore wind turbine (FOWT) at sea

What is floating offshore wind?

Floating offshore wind (FLOW) is created by using the same wind turbines used for conventional seabed-fixed offshore wind but these are mounted on floating structures secured to the seabed with mooring lines and anchors. 
Major benefits of this engineering include:
  • generating electricity in water depths where fixed-foundation turbines are not able to – the more offshore the turbine is the stronger the winds
  • significantly increasing the sea area available for offshore wind farms, especially in countries with limited shallow waters
  • playing a key role in the UK achieving its net zero ambition in 2050.
Although commercial floating offshore wind turbines (FOWTs) are mostly at the early phase of development, the South West's proximity to the Celtic Sea and excellent wind climate makes the region a key player in the UK’s transition to clean energy in the pursuit of net zero.
FLOW has rapidly emerged as essential to the UK’s plans to decarbonise the energy supply.
Decarbonise: to reduce or eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from a process such as manufacturing or the production of energy or in an environment.
As part of their net zero and energy security objectives, the UK government has set an ambitious target to deploy 50 GW of offshore wind by 2030, of which at least 5 GW will be floating. In the Celtic Sea, the ambition is to unlock up to 4.5 GW of floating wind energy by 2035 and further 12 GW by 2045.
FLOW prototype being tested in the COAST Laboratory.
FLOW prototype being tested in the University's COAST Laboratory

What are the challenges of floating offshore wind?

Floating offshore wind is a rapidly growing sector but there are a number of challenges:
  • cost – while costs have reduced significantly for fixed offshore wind, floating offshore wind still requires significant investment.
  • design – the importance of selecting the most suitable floating foundation type and materials for the location and site conditions.
  • survivability – FOWTs will be subject to concurrent attacks from strong wind, steep waves, rising water levels due to storm surge as well as the effects from the complex interplay between the underlying flow processes, e.g. wind induced currents and wave breaking.
  • infrastructure and supply chains – a network of everything required for the manufacturing, installation, monitoring and maintenance of the technology.
  • data security and risk mitigation – to safeguard new technology and ensure secure FLOW deployments.

What is the Celtic Sea development?

The Celtic Sea is a part of the Atlantic Ocean, located to the south of the Republic of Ireland. It is bordered by the St George’s Channel, the English Channel and the Bristol Channel. The other limits of the sea include the Bay of Biscay and the adjacent portions of Brittany, Cornwall and Wales.
The Celtic Sea offers an opportunity for commercial-scale floating offshore wind farms which requires a careful balance to protect the natural environment. The Crown Estate is delivering new leasing opportunities for developing floating offshore wind in a designated area of the Celtic Sea, off the coast of Cornwall and South Wales.
In driving the transition to clean energy and providing significant, sustainable growth in jobs, skills and regional supply chain infrastructure, the Celtic Sea developments will cement the UK’s position as a world leader in floating offshore wind energy.
The University is proud to be a partner on the Cornwall Floating Offshore Wind Accelerator project aimed at developing tools, knowledge and data to accelerate the Celtic Sea floating offshore wind opportunity.

The development of floating offshore wind off the coasts of Devon and Cornwall presents an unprecedented opportunity for the South West. It also forms the backbone of the Government’s future plans for energy generation and net zero, so it is critical that we develop the technological solutions we need and also get every sector of society on board. Our previous research has shown the advances being made with the technology, and what will be needed to continue that pace of development. We have also shown how best to position the floating platforms within the ocean so as not to cause environmental harm, both to the seabed and the species living along our coasts. Having worked with the region’s marine businesses over many years, we know there are companies ready to take advantage of the expansion in floating offshore wind. By building on those partnerships, and developing new ones, we can ensure Plymouth and the whole South West benefits from the clean energy revolution.

Deborah Greaves OBE FREngDeborah Greaves OBE FREng
Professor in Ocean Engineering


Leading the way in floating offshore wind

The University's unrivalled technical capabilities and expertise can support the successful roll-out of floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea.
Floating offshore wind operators can work with us to access the definitive place to test, trial and deploy renewable energy technology. Together we will reduce development costs and empower organisations to de-risk, decarbonise and optimise operations.
The University can:
  • optimise the hydrodynamic design of offshore renewable structures for performance and survivability
  • lead on advanced high-tech autonomous ocean data collection
  • enhance and safeguard operations with our state-of-the-art simulators and cyber resilience testbeds
  • fundamentally understand how operations will interact with the ocean environment through our leading marine science research.
The University’s expertise and facilities can be used by businesses when they are researching and developing new innovations. 
This includes: the UK Floating Offshore Wind Turbine Test facility, housed within the COAST Laboratory; a Maritime Simulation Laboratory complete with a state-of-the-art Dynamic Positioning Simulator; and a Cyber-SHIP Lab, where maritime innovations can be tested for their cyber resilience.

Centre for Decarbonisation and Offshore Renewable Energy (C-DORE) 

C-DORE brings together leading research and expertise from across the University. Through co-creation and collaboration with partners from business, government and key communities from across the globe, it aims to be a beacon for the University’s approach to solutions-oriented research, accelerating sustainable developments in decarbonisation and renewable energy.
In response to climate change imperatives, C-DORE’s work aligns to the UK Government’s Net Zero Strategy, British Energy Security Strategy and Clean Maritime Plan.
Centre for Decarbonisation and Offshore Renewable Energy