The UK’s Crown Estate has formally launched the Celtic Sea floating offshore wind leasing round to award leases for 4.5GW of generation capacity.  

The process began with the release of a pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ), marking the first step in a competitive tender.

The process will culminate with the selection of preferred bidders for three 1.5GW plots by March 2025.

This development is a significant step towards establishing the UK’s first commercial-scale floating wind farms, to be operational by the mid-2030s.

The formal launch of the Round 5 tender was signalled by a concession notice on the UK Government’s Find A Tender portal on 28 February 2024.

The Crown Estate had previously outlined the details of Round 5 in an information memorandum.

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The tender process will award three separate agreements for lease to successful suppliers, granting them development rights and the option to enter into leases for constructing and operating wind farms.

The tender process for Round 5 after the PQQ stage will be followed by two stages of formal invitation to tender. The deadline for PQQ submissions is set for 18 April 2024.

The Crown Estate’s commissioned research suggests the Celtic Sea floating wind farms could generate 5,300 jobs and contribute £1.4bn ($1.77bn) to the economy.

The Estate’s initial proposals in November 2021 indicated the potential for up to 4GW of new floating wind capacity in the Celtic Sea.

However, in October 2023, it was announced that the capacity auctioned would increase to 4.5GW across three project development areas, a revision from the initially identified four areas, reported.

This marks the first occasion that the Crown Estate has conducted a habitats regulations assessment (HRA) ahead of an offshore wind leasing process.

It will provide bidders with early insight into the necessary steps for HRA compliance.

The Crown Estate’s marine managing director, Gus Jaspert, stated in a social media post: “Yesterday marked the formal launch of the Round 5 Offshore Wind tender round, with the publication of our pre-qualification questionnaire.

“This comes after updates related to the Celtic Sea and Round 5 with the recent conclusion of the Round 5 HRA, and the publication of the Celtic Sea supply chain blueprint last week.”