Wind farm task force urges government to transform UK ports to aid industry

Every £1 invested in port facilities would generate up to £4.30 of value to the economy, organisation says

Port of Leith on the Firth of Forth, Edinburgh. Scotland already has a floating wind farm off the coast of Kincardine and there are plans for more off the north Highland coast. PA
Powered by automated translation

Eleven ports across the UK need to be transformed to enable the use of floating offshore wind turbines, a report has shown.

Floating wind farms capable of generating up to 34 gigawatts of power could be installed by 2040 if the government takes swift action, said the Floating Offshore Wind Task Force — which includes representatives from the UK and devolved governments, renewable trade associations, and major offshore wind and port developers.

Ministers should improve their ambitions to install five gigawatts' worth of floating wind turbines by 2030 and push the UK to become a global leader in the industry, the organisation said.

The task force called on the government to invest £4 billion ($5 billion), calculating that every £1 invested in UK port facilities would generate up to £4.30 of added value to the economy.

Floating wind farms function in the same way as traditional offshore turbines but they are instead attached to platforms that are tied to the seabed with anchors.

This means they can be built farther out to sea where the wind is stronger.

On Monday, the Welsh government announced it had given consent for an offshore wind farm to be built in the Celtic Sea, which it hopes will transform the region into a clean energy superpower.

Scotland already has a floating wind farm off the coast of Kincardine and there are plans for more off the north Highland coast.

The Climate Change Committee said in a recent report that offshore wind should form the vast majority of Britain’s electricity production in a decarbonised power system, which it said was possible to achieve by 2035 if the government removes barriers around consent and planning.

Green energy sources — in pictures

“Getting on to the front foot to make the most of our enormous floating wind resource is essential to boost Britain’s energy security and deliver net zero as fast as possible,” said Laurie Heyworth, emerging technologies policy analyst at RenewableUK.

“At the moment, there are no port facilities in this country which are fit for the mass deployment of floating wind, so we need to start revitalising them now as new industrial hubs so that we’re ready for this new sector to take off at scale by 2030.

“The timeline is tight and we will only be able to deliver on our ambition if we take action promptly and decisively.”

The task force said that, to scale up, the government should invest £4 billion in developing ports, which would enable 150-metre turbines and their giant floating bases to be manufactured and assembled on the coast.

They said a minimum of three to five ports would be needed in Scotland to install turbines on to floating bases and another two are needed in the Celtic Sea.

A further four UK ports need revitalising to they can manufacture the steel and concrete needed for the foundations, with more ships and bigger cranes required for construction, the authors added.

The report also said that enacting recommendations required to reach 34 gigawatts of floating wind power by 2040 would generate £26.6 billion in economic productivity, creating 45,000 jobs across the country.

“There is a huge opportunity for the UK to show international leadership in the race to deploy this new technology at scale,” said Nicola Clay, head of new ventures at the Crown Estate.

“However, it is clear from our own dialogue with developers and ports that this must go hand in hand with the rapid establishment of a new supply chain and upgrading ports.

“This will require collaboration, confidence and investment by all involved if the UK is to build the foundations for this industry to truly thrive and realise the full range of benefits on offer.”

Updated: March 15, 2023, 12:01 AM