Floating wind turbines planned for navigable waters


Yachtsmen could face a new threat to their cruising grounds from floating wind turbines, the RYA reveals. A new multi-million pound offshore windfarm leasing programme is being considered by The Crown Estate.

Floating wind turbines would be moored to the seabed on giant platforms allowing the turbine to move within a specified limit set by the length of the riser chains. Being mounted on a floating structure allows the turbine to generate electricity in water depths too deep for sea-bed erected towers.

Although this gives the developers the option to site the turbines far offshore in deep waters there is also the potential that they could be sited within the 12 nautical mile limit.

However, the Department for Energy Climate Change’s own Strategic Environmental Assessment in 2009 acknowledged that the seas within 12nm of the shore are particularly busy and are especially important for yachtsmen.

‘The construction of Offshore Renewable Energy Installations within this sea area is already creating real problems of squeeze between commercial and recreational traffic and the RYA continues to support the conclusion drawn in the 2009 Strategic Environmental Assessment that the bulk of new generation capacity should be constructed at least 12nm away from the shore’ said Stuart Carruthers, RYA cruising manager.

The Crown Estate announced at the RenewableUK offshore wind conference (12 June 2013) a new leasing programme for wind test and demonstration projects, including floating wind turbines.

‘This latest announcement raises particular concerns for us in relation to the potential cumulative impacts of numerous new technologies being deployed in already busy sea areas,’ Mr Carruthers added.

‘Whilst TCE indicates that this will be a step-based process we remain concerned about the compound effect that incremental steps could have. In line with our policy position we will object to proposals that either separately or together lead to a loss of amenity and/or have an adverse socio-economic impact on recreational boating. We will also object to those elements of a proposed development that present an intolerable hazard to navigation.

‘The RYA has worked hard over the past decade or so to establish a strong policy position with the offshore renewable energy industry and we have achieved considerable success by engaging with TCE, Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Department for Transport.

‘Our published position paper is recognised as a benchmark for developers when planning new Offshore Renewable Energy Installation (OREI) sites. As a member of NOREL (Nautical and Offshore Renewable Energy Liaison Group) the RYA works to ensure that the cumulative and in combination effects are recognised and that development proposals are shown on charts with all other built and planned sites so that the overall impact can be assessed.’

The need to cut the costs of offshore wind energy is the primary driver behind the search for new technologies such as floating turbines. Floating turbines are already being tested in Norway and the United States and France and Portugal are currently developing test projects. Scotland’s Energy Enterprise and Tourism Minister, Fergus Ewing announced at the conference that developers of floating offshore wind pilot projects will be eligible for a new subsidy.

You can read the RYA’s position paper on offshore wind energy at www.rya.org.uk/infoadvice/currentaffairs/Pages/WindEnergy.aspx