Britain’s offshore wind pipeline of intended but unbuilt turbine projects now tops 86GW, or eight times the nation’s current installed capacity and bigger even than China’s, new research has found.
Trade body RenewableUK this week published data, showing projects at various stages – see chart -, from drawing board, through consented, to awaiting planning approvals and, in a small number of cases, generating.
Rights to erect or even float turbines in coastal waters are granted by the Crown Estate and by its sister body Crown Estate Scotland. Big leasing rounds since 2020, including ScotWind 2’s new 25GW of awards, account for much of the 60% year on year rise in pipeline.
The 86GW of projected new capacity comes on top of Britain’s existing 10.5GW already generating offshore.
Britain’s international reputation as the “Saudi Arabia of wind” is confirmed in the figures, compiled for the trade body’s EnergyPulse report.
At 24GW, China now has more wind capacity fully operational than the UK, RenewableUK found. But the UK’s 86GW pipeline is bigger than China’s 75GW. The USA comes third, with 48GW in its pipeline.
Average turbine sizes erected in British waters will leap up from 9MW this year, to up to 15MW by 2025, researchers predict. The report notes that such growth will requires more UK-based factories, which will also need to be larger, creating new supply chain opportunities.
Provisionally, between 10,000 and 12,000 people were employed directly in offshore wind in 2020, according to figures released last month by the Office of National Statistics. That equated to around 5% of jobs in the economy’s renewables and energy efficiency sectors, and around 10% of its value-added.
The Renewables UK analysis comes amid reports that PM Johnson is facing down Cabinet rebels seeking to block his plan to reverse David Cameron’s abandonment of onshore wind, and open up English and Welsh landscapes. Rows with ministers Jacob Rees-Mogg, Chris Heaton-Harris and others over onshore turbines and fracking are thought to have delayed Johnson’s long awaited energy security strategy, a month after Russian exports of oil and gas began to face sanctions.
RenewableUK’s Chief Executive Dan McGrail said: “Our latest EnergyPulse report shows that the UK’s world-class offshore wind industry has taken huge strides forward in the past twelve months, with landmark leasing announcements adding an extra 33GW to our pipeline, and funding for floating wind ringfenced in the current CfD auction to help accelerate the growth of innovative technology.
“It’s clear”, McGrail added, “that offshore wind will be doing the heavy lifting as we secure our clean home-grown energy supplies and move faster towards independence from unstable fossil fuel imports.
“The global offshore wind market is also continuing to grow at a phenomenal rate.
“As the UK was an early mover in offshore wind, we’re in a prime position to capitalise on our expertise as a market leader which is highly sought after worldwide”.
The report also analyses data on major components of UK offshore wind farms such as turbines, cables and substations. More details here.