UK Offshore Wind Can Be Global Powerhouse

The UK’s offshore wind sector is at a “pivotal moment” and has a “unique opportunity” to develop skills to drive a truly world-leading industry, according to Andrew Jamieson, Chief Executive of the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult.

Jamieson was speaking ahead of an “Industry Leaders’ Debate” at Scottish Renewables’ Offshore Wind Conference, which will be held in Glasgow on January 24.

“The costs of energy from offshore wind have fallen to such a degree in recent years that it is rapidly becoming not only the nation’s primary means of delivering its carbon reduction targets through the coming decades, but a huge opportunity to export energy across Europe and goods and services all around the world,” Jamieson said.

“That growth is driving opportunity in many areas, and we now have the chance to develop the companies, the workforce, the skills and expertise that will do for the UK, and for Scotland, what the oil and gas industries have done so successfully for the past half-century.”

Offshore wind is now faced with the challenge of efficiency gains, getting more power from the resources available, Jamieson said, adding that this challenge presents enormous opportunities for the UK supply chain, which has a chance to make an impact on a truly global scale.

“From the oil and gas, engineering and marine sectors through to advanced electronics, sensors and software: all have the potential to make existing wind farms more efficient, to develop the next generation of bigger, more powerful turbines, or to evolve the truly disruptive technologies that will dominate beyond our immediate horizons,” Jamieson said.

Jamieson, who has headed the Glasgow-based ORE Catapult since its inception in 2013, joined Brian McFarlane, Head of Projects – Offshore Development at SSE, in spelling out his vision of the future for offshore wind ahead of Scottish Renewables’ event.

McFarlane, who is focussing on the Dogger Bank and Seagreen projects, told how “relatively simple tweaks” to the Contracts for Difference regime could help reap the cost-reduction benefits of increasingly large offshore wind projects.

“There’s no doubt these are exciting times for the offshore wind industry. SSE’s commitment to the sector is clear with the construction, with our partners, of the £2.6bn Beatrice project – one of the largest-ever private investments in Scottish infrastructure,” McFarlane said.

“There is a strong pipeline of offshore wind developments in the UK, but many of these are significantly larger than projects like (588MW, 84-turbine) Beatrice.”

McFralane said that the vast scale of these projects can help to drive deeper cost reductions and really develop the domestic supply chain.

But, according to McFarlane, this step-change in development also requires the industry and government to look at the CfD framework to ensure it can accommodate these larger projects whilst delivering more competition in the CfD auctions and improving deliverability. The mechanics of the CfD must be fit for purpose, McFarlane said.

“The good news is that there are relatively simple tweaks that can be made to do this which will mean growth in jobs and business developing clean, secure and affordable energy for the years ahead,” he added.

“We are very positive about the prospects for the sector and look forward to the outcome of the upcoming CfD auction in April and further clarity on subsequent rounds in the years ahead.”

The ORE Catapult’s Jamieson joined SSE’s McFarlane in highlighting the importance of a thriving domestic supply chain in developing the UK’s offshore wind fleet.

“The growth of the UK supply chain to date has been incredible, and something which was never achieved in the onshore wind industry, despite its scale. We now have UK companies which are expert in turbines, foundations, installation methods and much more – and there are still opportunities to do more,” Jamieson said.

“As the industry evolves it is going to understand the challenges it faces much better. If we look at power generation from gas, coal and nuclear, those are industries which have spent millions of man hours solving the issues they face and making things better, more efficient and extending the life of their assets, and that’s the next stage for onshore wind.”

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