Market Intelligence
Energy United Kingdom

United Kingdom Offshore Wind

The shallow seas surrounding the UK, with ample points of access due to the large UK coastline, ease the construction and maintenance of offshore wind turbines. Indeed more electricity is generated by offshore wind in the UK than anywhere else around the globe.

The UK government articulated its commitment to supporting renewable energy sectors through The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution published in late 2020. This plan pledged to mobilize over $15 billion in support of the green industrial revolution with hopes that the private sector could be persuaded to match this threefold. Advancing offshore wind is the first tenet of this plan and outlines a goal to quadruple offshore wind to produce 40GW by 2030 from 2020 production levels. This would be sufficient to power every UK home with offshore wind in 2030. 

The UK’s long coastline, with good wind speed and relatively shallow seabed, together with the openness and transparency of its power market have made it one of the most attractive destinations for U.S. offshore wind companies. 

The offshore wind sector has matured rapidly over the past few years in the waters around the UK and it is now capable of providing a reliable supply with proven technology. The UK has retained its top spot in the industry in terms of projects in the pipeline or already in use. Offshore wind currently contributes about 13% to the UK electricity mix. The UK now possess around 12.7 GW of connected offshore wind energy across 44 wind farms totaling over 2,500 turbines. It installed over 2.3 GW of new installations in 2021 alone which made up 70% of total installations in Europe that year. 

And the pipeline continues to grow: the Crown Estate (the body responsible for awarding seabed rights for offshore renewable energy projects) released the Round 4 of Offshore Wind Leasing (the first leasing opportunity in a decade) in 2020, creating the opportunity for at least 7GW of new projects. Six Round 4 projects were selected in 2021 and they are currently under Agreement for Lease. Following the leasing process, successful developers will take their projects through a number of licensing and consenting processes:

  1. Development and Consenting: estimated five years. Round 4 projects will need to apply for a Development Consent Order (DCO) from the Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy via the Planning Inspectorate. Developers will also require consent to construct a cable connection onshore, and an agreement to connect to the National Electricity Transmission System.
  2. Procurement and Contracts for Difference (CFDs): estimated two years. Developers take part in Contract for Difference (CfD) auctions to bid for support to build and run the wind farm. They also make their final investment decision.
  3. Construction: estimated three years. 

The UK is surrounded by seas which boast some of the best wind conditions in the world, with much of the resource located in relatively accessible, shallow waters. But as the seabed leasing presses on as just done in Round 4, the availability of those ideal locations become fewer, necessitating that development take place further out at sea, requiring longer transit times and in deeper waters. 

Floating offshore wind is well-suited for these challenges and indeed the UK government has set targets to deliver 5 GW of floating wind by 2030, with The Crown Estate delivering a new leasing opportunity in the Celtic Sea for the first generation of commercial-scale floating offshore windfarms.

Useful sources of data on the supply chain for the U.S. industry are RenewableUK’s Wind Energy Database and Supply Chain Map, the Offshore Wind Industry Council and Catapult Renewable Offshore Energy 

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