The Prime Minister’s pledge to create 1GW of floating offshore wind energy by 2050 could be a huge economic and environmental boost for Cornwall and the south west.

According to a report commissioned by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), 1GW of floating offshore windfarms 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.

In his speech to the Conservative Party virtual annual conference today (Oct 6), Boris Johnson pledged to power every home in Britain with offshore wind energy within a decade.

And he said: “We will not only build fixed arrays in the sea, we will build windmills that float on the sea – enough to deliver 1GW of energy by 2030, 15 times as much as the rest of the world put together.”

The pledge is being seen as huge boost to floating offshore wind ambitions in Cornwall and the south west, which have been led by the LEP for the last two years. Apart from Scotland, the Celtic Sea is the only other part of the UK where floating wind turbines can be deployed at scale.

And next month will see the formal submission of a Cornwall-led £30+ million funding bid for Government investment to accelerate the creation of a floating offshore wind industry in the region as part of a £64 million project.

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

It 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.

Steve Jermy

LEP director Steve Jermy, who is also executive chair of Wave Hub, said: “We’re delighted with the Prime Minister’s support because it recognises the huge contribution floating wind can make to the UK’s renewables targets and the thousands of jobs that would result.

“The deployment of floating wind farms off Cornwall and in the Celtic Sea is something we have been working towards for the last two years. We’ve been able to draw on the county’s unique expertise in offshore renewable energy and we are confident that Cornwall can play a leading role in delivering the Prime Minister’s ambitious vision.”

Jermy said plans to sell the Cornwall Council-owned Wave Hub offshore energy test site to a renewable energy project developer by the end of the year meant there could be a floating wind pilot project generating power off the coast of Cornwall as early 2023. And he said there was the ambition in Cornwall to develop 3GW of floating offshore wind energy in the Celtic Sea by 2030.

Mark Duddridge, chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP, also welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement: “Our region has huge expertise in offshore renewable energy and one of the best wind resources in Europe in the Celtic Sea. What we need now is for some of the Prime Minister’s promised infrastructure investment to come to Cornwall and the south west to upgrade our ports and grid connectivity to we can play a national role in the UK’s green industrial revolution.”

Cornwall is no stranger to renewable energy. It is home to the UK’s first commercial windfarm and has the best solar climate in the UK.

And as well as floating offshore wind Cornwall is pioneering deep geothermal energy to tap the heat in granite deposits five kilometres beneath the earth, and is looking at how lithium can be extracted from deep geothermal brines for use in battery technology to help drive the electric car revolution.

Only last month the LEP announced it was supporting a £4 million project to build Europe’s first geothermal lithium recovery pilot plant using investment it has secured from the Government’s Getting Building Fund. The project is a collaboration between Cornish Lithium and Geothermal Engineering Ltd.