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ScotWind provides a boost to UK offshore wind

In January 2022, Crown Estate Scotland leased rights to 17 projects covering a total of 7,000 km2, with a potential combined capacity of 25 GW, in the ScotWind auction. Overall, the auction netted £700 million.

Shell and Scottish Power were the big winners in the round as each was awarded 5 GW capacity. BP, BlueFloat Energy and Falck Renewables, and SSE were all awarded over 2 GW capacity each. 

ScotWind is a game changer for floating offshore wind projects

The ScotWind auction was unprecedented in a number of ways. Just five years after the commissioning of the Hywind Scotland pilot wind farm, this is the first time an offshore wind auction has awarded more capacity for floating wind farms (15.1 GW) than for fixed-bottom (9.8 GW). The average capacity of ScotWind stands at 1.6 GW and 1.4 GW for fixed-bottom and floating projects respectively. In perspective, the current post-2020 pipeline for the UK averages out at 1 GW. For additional reference, the current global capacity of floating wind farms stands at 0.07 GW (excluding China). 

The sheer size of these projects will put pressure on ports and harbours to develop the necessary infrastructure. It is also interesting to note that the floating wind farms awarded are further from the coastline, almost tripling the average distance, with a few projects awarded as far as beyond 100 km. These larger distances from shore will also pose their own logistic problems for project operators.  

Fixed-bottom projects hitting deeper waters

Fixed-bottom wind farms may have received a smaller share of the 25 GW auction, but project sizes averaged out larger than floating. 

These fixed projects are also some of the deepest wind farm projects ever, with an average water depth of 60 m (all are in water depths over 50 m). As it stands globally, the majority of fixed-bottom projects are in depths under 30m but as time goes on projects are being initiated in deeper and deeper waters. This highlights the increasing trend of gigantism in the industry: for larger wind turbine installation vessels and XXL wind turbine generators and foundations.

See also: Six developers take New York Bight lease areas for a total of $4.4 billion

Floating projects are also moving further from shore. Proof of concept wind farms such as Kincardine, off the coast of Aberdeen, UK, involve tows of hundreds of kilometres. The success of this project, and others, may have pushed the industry to target more remote areas with confidence in comparison to the near-shore pilot schemes which dominated in the past. As such, so far the majority of global floating wind projects of over 500 MW capacity have been under 50 km from shore, while for ScotWind, eight of the awards made are for projects over 50 km from shore. 

Overall, the ScotWind auction has provided a shake-up to an already exciting industry while cementing the UK's continuous leadership in the segment.

Spinergie analysis is the key to discovering how the ScotWind auction will impact the global offshore wind outlook for the UK in the coming years. Use SpinConstruction to track each project from this initial award through to final commissioning including all vessel contracting activity and the wider effects on market dynamics.

Yvan Gelbart
Yvan Gelbart
Data Analyst
Published on
January 19, 2022
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