A major £150 million project to install floating offshire windfarms off the coast of Cornwall could become a reality within the next five years.
Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has been leading on the plans for floating offshore wind turbines to be installed off the Cornish coast and another plan off the Welsh coast.
There are plans to have some floating offshore turbines plugged into the Wave Hub off Hayle and power up to 23,000 homes.
And it has been suggested that the floating wind turbines could be constructed in Falmouth which would bring further economic benefits to Cornwall.
Steve Jermy, executive chairman of Wavehub Limited as well as a director on the LEP, gave a presentation on the plans to the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Leadership Board.
He explained that floating wind turbines would provide more flexibility and be quicker to install than fixed turbines.
Mr Jermy said the turbines would be the same height as the Eiffel Tower and explained that there were two locations off Cornwall which were suited to using them – off Hayle and to the west of Cornwall off the Isles of Scilly.
He said the turbines could be constructed in sheltered waters and suggested that Falmouth could be a good base due to the number of firms based there, with boatbuilding firms able to construct the substructures needed.
Mr Jermy said there were plans to install four turbines which would then be linked to the wave hub and that discussions had taken place with the energy minister to get government support.
He said that while there had previously been three objections lodged there was now only one, from the Ministry of Defence. He said discussions were ongoing.
“It is the only thing that is stopping the project at Wave Hub,” he said.
Mr Jermy said that “in broad terms” the project was worth around £150m and there would need to be a round-the-clock operation to keep the turbines operating.
He said that Wave Hub and the LEP were working with organisations in Wales on the Pembrokeshire Demonstration Zone which will be a pilot scheme for floating offshore wind.
One leadership board member asked whether there would be a need to improve capacity to the National Grid to use the energy generated from the turbines.
Mr Jermy said there would need to be a grid update but this was also needed to work with the geothermal projects in Cornwall and so would help increase the benefits of a grid upgrade.
A report by the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult (OREC) published last month outlined the benefits of four potential offshore wind projects in Cornwall and Wales.
It states that the combined spend in the regional supply chain in Wales and the South West, if all four projects went ahead, could be £682m, supporting 3,200 jobs.
It added: “That spend could increase to £1.24 billion if there is further investment in manufacturing facilities for mooring chains and cables, and port infrastructure to enable turbine substructure fabrication locally, rather than final assembly only.”
The report states that the Wave Hub scheme in Cornwall could be launched in 2023/24 with a four turbine 32MW scheme 16km off the coast. It would provide power for up to 23,000 homes.
It adds that a 500MW 33-turbine project, 60km off the coast of Cornwall, could also be installed within 10 years.
However the report does stress: “It is important to note that these zones are presented as one possibility of high potential areas for future offshore wind development. They have not been endorsed by The Crown Estate, who will conduct their own exercise ahead of any future seabed leasing rounds.”