A vessel from Surrey, England, has set sail this week in its search for suitable areas to develop a new floating wind farm project. Managed by The Crown Estate – an independent business owned by the British Monarchy – the data gathered will expedite the development process of wind farms in the Celtic Sea.
The vessel’s task is to monitor wind and wave patterns in order to identify the most suitable sites for development. It will look at marine habitats, wind speed and sea depth.
Floating wind farms are unique in that they can be placed in deeper waters. This is opposed to current off-coast wind farms which can only be placed within shallow waters and are fixed to the seabed.
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Deeper waters often come with higher winds. The new floating wind farms will be floated on steel structures which are tethered and anchored to the seabed. This will allow the turbines to tap into the higher wind speeds, such as in the Celtic Sea off the coast of Pembrokeshire.
The development of these wind farms could produce enough energy to power over 4 million homes. Tim Stiven, of The Crown Estate, commented on the development, “So much of what we’re doing here today is helping to bring those benefits forward as fast as we can.”
He goes on to add, “Offshore wind is a massive success for the UK as we have seen in north Wales. All of the farms that have been built so far are in shallow water, but now we’re running out of shallow water. So, we need to move into deeper waters and these floating turbines will float on structures like mini oil rigs, made of steel or concrete which are anchored to the seabed.”
Any suitable areas found by the survey will be leased out to private companies, which would typically need to seek permission from The Crown Estate and conduct the survey themselves. However, Stiven states that “we’re doing it ahead of time so we can give the data to them… And that means their development of the project will happen quicker so we can all benefit from the renewable energy and the economic opportunities that come from this new industry.”
The survey boat will spend a total of 100 days at sea and employ specialist equipment to gather the data. Soundwave sensors will be used to map out the seabed and find positions which will not cause any friction with the marine ecosystem whilst also meeting the energy needs of the country.