The Celtic Sea off the western coast of Cornwall (STHLM [CC BY 3.0 (])
The Celtic Sea is set to play a critical role in the UK’s hopes of making good on its net zero ambitions.
Under plans being developed by the Government, the Crown Estate and industry, the region could in future be home to a flotilla of floating offshore wind platforms that provide the country with significant and sustainable sources of clean energy.
In recent weeks, the potential capacity of those platforms has been increased from 4GW to 4.5GW, with more information about the leasing round for the area due by the end of 2023.
However a new short film – A Journey to the Bottom of the Celtic Sea – highlights that advances in renewable technologies, like those being pioneered by researchers in the Centre for Decarbonisation and Offshore Renewable Energy, are not the only scientific challenge that needs to be addressed if such visions are to become a reality.

In the South West, geology is at the heart of our past – but it's also at the heart of our future, and it doesn't stop at the shore. We need to care about the offshore in the same way we care about the land. It’s a journey that has been several hundred million years in the making. But it is one that in the next few decades will be so exciting to be a part of, with researchers at the University of Plymouth leading the way.

Iain Stewart MBEIain Stewart MBE
Professor of Geoscience Communication, Sustainable Earth Institute

The Celtic Sea spans an area from Cornwall and West Wales to the coasts of Ireland and France, and out to the continental shelf edge.
In A Journey to the Bottom of the Celtic Sea, Associate Professor in Geological Sciences Dr Martin Stokes and Associate Professor in Hydrography and Ocean Exploration Dr Jenny Gales talk about their ongoing research into the formation and evolution of the seabed.
Associate Professor in Energy Geoscience Dr Matthew Watkinson and Sustainable Geoscience and Natural Capital Research Fellow Dr Munira Raji also discuss how the beaches of Devon and Cornwall give an insight into the rocky formation found beneath the ocean waves.
Together, they highlight how the central part of the Celtic Sea is quite flat and relatively shallow, with depths of 90-100 metres, but beyond that the water can be up to 200 metres deep.
Within the region are rocky outcrops such as Haig Fras, just off the Isles of Scilly, as well as mega ridges created by the ice sheet that once extended across the shelf edge in past history.
All of this, the researchers say, will need to be taken into account by those looking to develop clean energy technologies within the Celtic Sea.
Professor Stewart adds:
“Renewable energy isn’t simply a choice, it’s a necessity for our continued existence on the planet. The development of offshore renewable wind farms must take account of this precious environment, and out of sight must not mean out of mind. Knowing the geology of the seabed will help us understand environmental sensitivities and ecological impacts, vital knowledge that will be built into the development of these turbines. Through this research, we can support our engineers with not only on where and how to anchor the turbines but also to help decide where best to lay the cabling which will ultimately bring the energy back to shore.”
Thermal image of Plymouth taken by Matthew Fox, Environmental Building Group - Special Commendation in Visions of Sustainability 2015

Sustainable Earth Institute

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Celtic Sea floating offshore wind