Boost for South West’s floating offshore wind ambitions

Plans to build floating windfarms in the Celtic Sea to generate clean power and create thousands of green jobs have taken a major step forward after being shortlisted by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The South West Floating Offshore Wind Accelerator has been chosen to work up a detailed bid for over £30 million of potential government funding provided through UKRI’s flagship Strength in Places Fund. UKRI is providing £50,000 of early-stage funding to support development of the bid following a successful stage one application.

The project aims to build on Cornwall and Plymouth’s world-renowned excellence in offshore renewables business and research to fast-track the construction of large scale floating offshore windfarms in the Celtic Sea from the mid-2020s onwards.

The South West Floating Offshore Wind Accelerator is being led by Wave Hub, the Cornwall Council-owned marine renewables research and technology organisation, in collaboration with the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), University of Plymouth, and a range of partners across the peninsula.

Floating platforms can access stronger winds in deeper waters than conventional fixed offshore wind turbines. The Celtic Sea, which is an area off the coast of Cornwall and West Wales and south of Ireland, has one of the best wind resources in Europe.

A report published earlier this year by ORE Catapult and commissioned by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP and the Welsh government said a floating wind industry in the Celtic Sea could support 3,200 jobs in the South West and Wales and £682 million of spend in the local supply chain by 2030, powering hundreds of thousands of homes. Nationally the industry could support 17,000 jobs and generate £33.6 billion of economic activity, with huge export potential.

The UKRI’s first stage award will allow the project partners to work up a full stage bid for submission to the SIPF in November, which has £236 million available in the latest funding round and makes awards of between £10 million and up to £50 million in exceptional cases. Awards will be announced next year.

The quality of the South West’s bid was commended by UKRI’s lead on the Strength in Places Fund, David Sweeney, who said: 

“I am delighted to be able to award early-stage funding to this bid which has great potential to benefit the local area through supporting innovation and sustained growth, and strengthen collaboration between industry and our world-class research base.”

Steve Jermy, Executive Chair of Wave Hub, which is based in Hayle in Cornwall, said: 

“We’re delighted that UKRI has recognised the strength of our bid and that we can progress to the next round. The Great South West has the potential to make a decisive contribution to the UK’s offshore wind energy targets by developing a new floating wind industry that can create thousands of jobs with huge export potential.”

Professor Deborah Greaves OBE, Head of the University of Plymouth’s School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics, and Director of the Supergen Offshore Renewable Energy Hub, said: 

“The South West is perfectly placed to advance the development of offshore renewable energy on behalf of the whole country – something that has been acknowledged by UKRI through this funding award. And the University, with its pedigree for research, development and innovation in the renewables sector, is excited to be at the heart of the floating wind project as we now look to work up a full bid.”

Mark Duddridge, Chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP which has been driving the Celtic Sea initiative for the last two years, added: 

“This project is about global innovation in a high value industry and is a cornerstone of our Local Industrial Strategy. It is an opportunity to lead a post-pandemic green recovery and make a huge contribution to the UK’s economy and the fight against climate change.”

Marine Renewable Energy 

The University is a leader in marine renewable energy research. 

The COAST Engineering Research Group has particular strengths in physical and numerical modelling of marine renewable energy devices, supported by our state the art COAST Lab facilities. 

The University is also a key partner in the Partnership for Research in Marine Renewable Energy (PRIMaRE).