A $21 billion plan to build 10 gigawatts of floating wind in the North Atlantic to pump power back to the UK via ultra-long undersea power cables was unveiled on Friday by a consortium with links to Spanish major Repsol, in one of the most ambitious schemes to date in global offshore wind.

The HIP Atlantic Project — a collaboration between US-based Hecate Wind and UK group Independent Power Corporation — has applied for an initial 4GW of UK grid connections and plans to deploy the first two of its 1GW individual wind farms, which it calls ‘pods’, hundreds of kilometres outside UK waters off south and east Iceland.

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Development company Hecate Independent Power (HIP) said the initial 2GW of projects, for which it is currently lining up investment, could be online as soon as 2025.

IPC — the UK end of the Anglo-US partnership — is an international gas plant developer.

Hecate Holdings is majority owner of Chicago-based Hecate Energy, a solar and battery developer in which Repsol recently took a 40% stake in a bid to increase its own renewables footprint.

Under the scheme, each 1GW wind farm pod will have its own high-voltage direct current (HVDC) line, which HIP is proposing to make at a new £200 million ($277 million) cable plant in north-east England.

No details were given in connection with the floating wind platform technology or turbines that are proposed.

The power generated could serve specific users such a massive new datacentres, said the partners, who added that they have secured “recognition” from officials that the renewable energy imported would be eligible under the UK’s contract-for-difference (CfD) support scheme.

A statement announcing the plan said: “Full dispatch of the HIP offshore wind pods will be under the exclusive control of the United Kingdom electricity system operator making HIP Atlantic Britain’s first captive wind farm in overseas territorial waters."

The developer claimed its floating wind will operate in a “different meteorological catchment area from current North Sea and Irish Sea wind farms”, allowing it to compensate for periods of lower production in the rest of the UK fleet.

HIP reckons the scheme’s first phase alone would create 15,000 new UK jobs, with another 500 in Iceland.

'Stretch the offshore wind zone'

The joint venture is chaired by Tony Baldry, a former UK energy minister, who said: “HIP Atlantic fulfils Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s vision of attracting investment and job creation in the North of England as part of this country’s ambitious policy to make Britain the world leader in offshore wind energy.

“We will stretch the zone of British-operated wind generation outside of our traditional territorial waters, pushing the boundaries of existing cable technology to generate over 1000 kilometres from our grid landfall points throughout England.”

Although the HIP scheme is ambitious in terms of scale and timeline, floating wind is on the UK’s agenda.

The UK aims to have 1GW of floating wind installed off its shores by 2030, as part of a targeted 30GW-plus offshore build-out, and seabed landlord The Crown Estate in March said it will consider first commercial-scale floating leases in the Celtic Sea off England and Wales.

(This article first appeared in Upstream's sister renewable energy publication Recharge on 21 May, 2021.)