Plans to build floating windfarms in the Celtic Sea to generate clean power and create thousands of green jobs have taken a major step forward after being shortlisted by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The South West Floating Offshore Wind Accelerator has been chosen to work up a detailed bid for over £30 million of potential government funding provided through UKRI’s flagship Strength in Places Fund. UKRI is providing £50k of early-stage funding to support development of the bid following a successful stage one application.

The project aims to build on Cornwall and Plymouth’s world-renowned excellence in offshore renewables business and research to fast-track the construction of large scale floating offshore windfarms in the Celtic Sea from the mid-2020s onwards.

The South West Floating Offshore Wind Accelerator is being led by Wave Hub, the Cornwall Council-owned marine renewables research and technology organisation, in collaboration with the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), University of Plymouth, University of Exeter, the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, A&P Group, Cornwall Council and Plymouth City Council.

Floating platforms can access stronger winds in deeper waters than conventional fixed offshore wind turbines. The Celtic Sea, which is an area off the coast of Cornwall and west Wales and south of Ireland, has one of the best wind resources in Europe.

Steve Jermy: “The Great South West has the potential to make a decisive contribution to the UK’s offshore wind energy targets”

A report published earlier this year by ORE Catapult and commissioned by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP and the Welsh Government said a floating wind industry in the Celtic Sea could support 3,200 jobs in the south west and Wales and £682 million of spend in the local supply chain by 2030, powering hundreds of thousands of homes.

Nationally the industry could support 17,000 jobs and generate £33.6 billion of economic activity, with huge export potential.

The UKRI’s first stage award will allow the project partners to work up a full stage bid for submission to the SIPF in November, which has £236 million available in the latest funding round and makes awards of between £10 million and up to £50 million in exceptional cases. Awards will be announced next year.

Steve Jermy, executive chair of Hayle-based Wave Hub, said: “We’re delighted that UKRI has recognised the strength of our bid and that we can progress to the next round. The Great South West has the potential to make a decisive contribution to the UK’s offshore wind energy targets by developing a new floating wind industry that can create thousands of jobs with huge export potential.”

Mark Duddridge, chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP, which has been driving the Celtic Sea initiative for the last two years, added: “This project is about global innovation in a high value industry and is a cornerstone of our Local Industrial Strategy. It is an opportunity to lead a post-pandemic green recovery and make a huge contribution to the UK’s economy and the fight against climate change.”