Natural England are working with Norwich-based clean energy consulting group Opergy to determine the potential for an offshore demonstration site in England’s territorial waters.
nergy security pressures and the climate emergency have made offshore wind a vital part of the UK’s long-term renewables strategy.
There are however evidence gaps, which Natural England believes could be rectified with a recognised national testing area or areas where new and novel technologies could be trialled and monitored to establish potential environmental impact.
The new testing ground(s) could be used not just by the offshore renewables sector, but others such as hydrogen production from offshore wind, oil and gas decarbonisation technologies, carbon capture, and aggregates.
Tamara Rowson, spokesperson at Natural England, explained: “A demonstration site for offshore wind in England could provide a vital testing ground to prove the concept of new and exciting components and solutions.
“It will allow the study of environmental impact pathways of offshore wind components and construction methods on a smaller pre commercial scale providing regulators, statutory nature conservation bodies, academics and developers evidence and confidence in levels of impact prior to rolling out of commercial scale applications, thereby supporting a more streamlined consenting process.
“The area could also be used by industry to test new mitigation measures for offshore projects with the potential to continue to reduce the impacts, risks and costs of offshore wind energy”.
Through the study, Opergy will assess:
- lessons learned and best practice from other operational demonstration sites in the UK, Europe and around the world;
- explore market demand for such a demonstration site in English territorial waters through targeted engagement with bodies such as The Crown Estate and offshore developers;
- identify the appropriate process for establishing a demonstration area in English waters;
- and, identify the likely costs involved of establishing such a site, along with the governance considerations for its development and operation, and possible locations.
Findings will be reported back next March.
As part of this, Opergy will soon be launching a focused consultation, seeking insight from those in offshore industry sectors, to build a complete picture of the best way forwards.
Opergy Group Managing Director, Johnathan Reynolds, said: “The UK is already home to one of the largest offshore wind markets in the world, which itself looks set to grow at a rapid pace over the coming years. With growing momentum behind floating wind in the Celtic Sea and hybrid projects too, there is little doubt to offshore energy landscape is going to get very busy in the years to come.”
“While undoubtedly an exciting time, it also makes it all the more important that we have the fullest picture possible of what is possible and what isn’t moving forwards, which is why it is great to see Natural England proposing an approach such as this and is something that we were both delighted and feel well placed to help them with.”