Crown Estate starts Blyth hunt

UK seabed landlord the Crown Estate is starting the search for a developer to advance the Blyth Offshore Wind Demonstration (Bowds) project in northeast England.

Blyth – at about 14 sq km the country’s largest consented demonstration site – received planning consent for a 99MW offshore wind project in November 2013.

The Crown Estate is asking for expressions of interest from developers capable of delivering an operational project by 2016/2017, with a view to running a tender process once the level of market interest has been established.

“With consent already granted, this project represents a fantastic opportunity for industry to invest in developing new technologies which will ultimately contribute towards growth in the sector by unlocking new areas of resource and driving down costs,” says Adrian Fox, programme manager for supply chain and technology at The Crown Estate.

“We are keen to see development at Blyth come forward at the earliest possible opportunity, and offering the project to the market will mean developers with the necessary resources now have the chance to access the most advanced demonstration site in UK waters.”

Last summer, the UK Crown Estate kicked off a far-reaching stakeholder engagement on a scheme designed to speed prototype offshore wind technologies – including floating turbines, new-look foundations and cable installation equipment – towards commercial readiness.

Bowds, which will be made up of 15 pre-consented “pods” arranged in three arrays in water depths ranging from 38-57 metres, would be the first large-scale deep-water site to spring from this programme.

The decision to offer the Blyth site to the market has been taken in consultation with the government and the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, which recently merged with Narec, the organisation that brought the site through to consent.

For Narec, Bowds, which is budgeted to cost to £350m ($480m), will be the “final piece in the jigsaw” in its strategy to provide a complete suite of independent open access test facilities for manufacturers developing new offshore technologies needed for the UK’s Round 3 projects.

Bowds is one of a number of testing and demonstration (T&D) developments earmarked for construction to trial offshore wind technologies off Britain. They are the struggling European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre, Energy Park Fife, and Hunterston, all in Scotland, and the former wave and tidal T&D site, WaveHub, off southwest England.

Two floating pilots are on the cards too.

Scottish start-up Pilot Offshore’s has as-yet-unapproved plans for an eight-turbine 50MW array, called Kincardine, in the deep water off Aberdeen.

Norwegian energy giant Statoil is pushing ahead with its five-unit, 30MW Buchan Deep project off Peterhead, Scotland, using its Hywind 2 machines.