Norwegian offshore energy giant Equinor is “maturing plans” for a multi-gigawatt floating wind power pipeline in the Celtic Sea ahead of next year's flagship leasing round, building on an UK project portfolio totalling some 5GW that includes the world’s first deepwater array, Hywind Scotland.

Equinor said it had completed a “comprehensive site selection process” that focused on gigascale prospects – though seabed landlord the Crown Estate has only set the bar at 300MW arrays or larger – and aimed to “develop projects that create shared value for Wales and southwest England and opportunities for the regional supply chain to advance as a competitive hub for floating wind”.

Catherine Maloney, head of offshore wind business development in the UK, said: “Equinor has been operating in the UK for nearly 40 years and… see[s] new and exciting opportunities emerging in the Celtic Sea.

“[We are] working hard to mature our plans. Equinor is highly experienced at developing floating wind [having] installed the world’s first floating wind turbine [Hywind Demo, in 2008, off Norway], the world’s first [commercial-scale] farm and are now [is] building the world’s largest [the 95MW Hywind Tampen off Norway].

“We are committed to industrialising floating wind and the Celtic Sea is an optimal region for further development of this important technology,” she said.

Equinor currently has 749MW of operating offshore wind plant in the UK via its Sheringham Shoal, Dudgeon and Hywind Scotland projects, as well as the 3.6GW Dogger Bank under construction, and 719MW in the consenting.

The Crown Estate in July mapped out five gigascale zones for stepwise development of floating wind arrays in the Celtic Sea, with a view to seeing as much as 24GW online by 2045. The leasing round is planned for next year.

Britan’s ambitions for floating wind power in the Celtic Sea are based on forecasts of a $60bn economy and tens of thousands of job in the coming decades, with first pilots, including the flagship 100MW Erebus project led by TotalEnergies, now heading for the water.

The UK government considers how to progress on the national offshore wind target set in April of having 50GW turning by 2030 including 5GW of floating arrays.

DNV calculates floating wind projects currently make up over 15% of the total offshore wind deployment in the pipeline for switch-on by mid-century, some 264GW of the 1,748GW slated to be installed.