Wales’ Marine Energy Test Area (META) is facilitating an important deployment of ‘ExoReefs’ – nature friendly infrastructure that could be used on future floating offshore wind projects in the Celtic Sea.

The Marine Energy Engineering Centre of Excellence (MEECE), led by the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult has brought together Pembrokeshire based Hiraeth Energy and Exo Engineering to trial deployment of ‘ExoReefs’ at META, just off the Pembrokeshire coast.

The project aims to demonstrate the viability of using nature-inclusive design in cable scour protection for use in floating offshore windfarms.

The UK has set ambitious targets to increase offshore wind capacity to 50GW by 2050 (1). Historically, the UK’s offshore wind sector has focused on fixed-bottom windfarm developments in the North Sea. But the wind resources of the Celtic Sea could exceed 100GW (2) if the potential of floating wind farms is realised.

The development of offshore wind farms has inevitably had an impact on the sea floor – from the turbine foundations, cable crossings and scour protection required to protect the infrastructure. Floating wind farm infrastructure does not require scour protection at the base of turbines, but protection for cable routes is still a necessity.

Conventional cable protection, such as granite rock armour or articulated concrete mattresses offer an adequate solution for protecting offshore wind infrastructure, but often neglect the need for biodiversity considerations. By incorporating complex features and unique microhabitats onto cable scour protection, a “reef effect” can be created which can support a range of native species and commercially important fish stocks.

If floating offshore wind developments in the Celtic Sea use nature-friendly techniques, there could be many benefits to the environment and nature.

Exo Engineering’s collaborative pilot project in the Celtic Sea provides the perfect opportunity to explore how the concepts of eco-engineering and nature-inclusive design can improve biodiversity whilst protecting offshore infrastructure.

Will Melhuish, EXO Engineering Operations Manager

This Autumn, multiple ‘ExoReef’ designs were successfully deployed off the Pembrokeshire Coast at the Marine Energy Test Area (META), to bettter understand how they perform in a real-life marine environment.

The prototypes were deployed at the East Pickard Bay open water test site, and will be monitored for 18 months.

We are delighted to host this experiment which will provide valuable real-world data to Exo Engineering on their innovative scour protection which aims to benefit biodiversity. This project highlights META’s pre-consented test sites can be used for a wide variety of testing activities, not just energy convertors, but innovative components designed for the offshore renewables sector as well.

Saul Young, META Operations Manager

This is an exciting new step to bringing innovative, floating wind technologies to the Celtic Sea.

Hiraeth Energy, who have partnered with Magnora Offshore Wind to propose a 1GW floating wind development in the Celtic Sea, says his project aligns with their ambition to support nature and habitats, as well as local communities, alongside the benefits of renewable energy generation.

Safeguarding our ecosystems, and improving biodiversity and nature, are core to the Hiraeth Energy approach. We are delighted to be able to support the evaluation of Exo Engineering’s innovative products that could improve the health and biodiversity of Wales’ coastal areas.

Joseph Kidd, Hiraeth Energy Project Partner

ORE Catapult is committed to supporting new technologies and approaches that will make consenting of floating wind projects easier and quicker.

MEECE and META, funded by Swansea Bay City Deal, through the Pembroke Dock Marine project, are making Pembrokeshire a powerful hub for the demonstration of new environmental technologies, and EXO are a great example of the innovative companies that we exist to support.

Dr Paul Ellesmore, MEECE Programme Manager

Our Marine Energy Test Area (META) is the only pre-consented, pre-commercial test facility of its kind in Wales.

Funded through the Swansea Bay City Deal and a keystone partner of the Pembroke Dock Marine Project, META offers testing in real sea conditions for wave, tidal and floating offshore wind (FLOW) technology in the Milford Haven Waterway, alongside world class port, engineering and manufacturing facilities.