Politicians blamed for Celtic disarray

A regional renewables body has pointed the finger at political causes for the shelving of the 4.2GW Celtic Array wind farm planned off western England.

Regen SW, based in southwest England, says the reason given by developers Centrica and Dong for their decision - "technical challenges" presented by the seabed geology - is secondary to the government's backsliding ambitions in offshore wind.

"While the technical challenges of ground conditions have been cited as the reason for the demise... the root cause is arguably political," says programme manager Ian Godfrey.

“There is a big mismatch between the potential UK offshore wind pipeline of 37GW and the government’s target for 10-12GW by 2020. The recently announced Contract for Difference budget for offshore wind appears to reduce this ambition further.

"These disparities do not create the stable and appetising investment climate required by the industry.”

Godfrey says the pull-back from Celtic Array - coming in the wake of the cancellation of RWE’s 1.2GW Atlantic Array in the Bristol Channel and SSE’s icing of the 700MW Islay Array, off western Scotland - is a "real blow" to the economy on the western coast of Britain, and in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The scuppering of Celtic Array leaves a vacuum in the western coast's Round 3 project pipeline, with 6.1GW of build-out having disappeared in the past eight months, along with an estimated "10,000 future jobs".

There are 2.6GW of Round 2 developments left to build off the west of Britain, less than a third the development backlog a year ago.

The planned trial of the PelaStar floating wind turbine at the Wave Hub testing centre in 2015, says Godfrey, remains an example of how the country could boost "R&D activity, creating intellectual property, reducing costs and opening up UK offshore wind resource " by making deeper sites, such as are common off the western coast, accessible to development.

“With commitment to creating the right investment climate and an increased focus on R&D of foundation systems for complex ground conditions and deep-water sites, the UK will continue to play a global leadership role in the sector, reaping the rewards of this position with economic growth both locally and through global exports," says Godfrey.