UK Offshore Wind Industry Not Resting On Laurels, Eyes Further Cost Cuts

Offshore wind is the lowest cost means of decarbonising the UK’s energy sector and the industry ticks every box in the government’s new Industrial Strategy, ScottishPower Renewables’ Jonathan Cole said during Scottish Renewables’ Offshore Wind Conference in Glasgow.

Source: Scottish Renewables

This week marked something of a turning point for the UK’s offshore wind industry, Scottish Renewables said, after the latest Cost Reduction Monitoring Framework (CRMF) showed the long-held cost reduction target of GBP 100 per MWh had been smashed – four years ahead of schedule.

These facts are putting offshore wind front and centre in the energy debate, Cole, ScottishPower Renewables’ Offshore Managing Director and Chairman of the Offshore Wind Programme Board said.

According to Cole, offshore wind costs can easily go below GBP 85/MWh.

The technological innovations which will help the industry move towards these cost levels were the subject of two sessions delivered in association with the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult.

Dr Federico D’Amico, Project Coordinator of EDF Energy’s five-turbine, 41.5MW Blyth Offshore Demonstrator, told how the project is using the world’s largest wind turbines and innovative bases to drive down costs.

The ‘buoyant gravity bases’ are built in a dry dock and floated out to site – cutting their price significantly. Each of the structures will contain 60 sensors so their performance can be analysed from shore.

Modus Seabed Intervention’s Angus Cooper showed off the company’s hybrid AUV, an underwater drone developed with Saab which carries out survey tasks without human intervention.

Siemens Wind Power’s Head of Business Development, Ray Thompson, also touched on drones in a presentation which outlined how far the industry had come.

“Bigger turbines means fewer turbines, which means fewer bases and cables and boat movements – all of which means costs can be reduced,” Thompson said.

“We are now doing in hours what would have taken us days or even weeks before. That’s a different paradigm entirely to where we were just a few years ago.”

Ray also talked about the company’s new GBP 310 million turbine blade factory in Hull.

“The change in Hull is spectacular. We have created 800 new jobs and we are transforming the economy. It’s incredibly uplifting to visit that factory and see what can be done when you start with a clean sheet of paper,” Thompson said.

Keynote speaker Dame Anne Glover discussed academia’s importance to cost reduction and innovation in offshore wind.

Dame Anne, former Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland, is a board member of ORE Catapult.

She told delegates that Scotland’s research is cited by other researchers around the world more often than any other country, in comparison to its GDP.

Industry, she says, must do more to capitalise on this pool of academic talent because “it would be utterly foolish not to”.

“We need to challenge the research community. All over Europe there are people who are looking for questions to which they can apply their thinking on your behalf,” Dame Anne said.

The CRMF, produced by ORE Catapult, shows the cost of power from offshore turbines has fallen 32% in just four years.

It’s an important achievement, but ORE Catapult CEO Andrew Jamieson cautioned that the industry shouldn’t be complacent.

“Do not think that costs are coming down and that we can then take the foot off the gas and stop innovating,” Jamieson said.

“We must keep driving on the cost and on the economic benefits.”

Andrew also pointed to the aerospace and automotive industries, which continue to innovate “even though most people can now afford cars and air travel.”

With so much positivity throughout the day, it’s difficult not to be excited about what offshore wind has to offer for Scotland, Scottish Renewables said.

Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse, opening the conference just hours before delivering the government’s draft Scottish energy strategy to Parliament, agreed.

Highlighting good news for CS Wind, 2-B, the Aberdeen Bay Wind Farm and the Beatrice project he said:

“Offshore wind is one of the solutions to the transformation in Scotland’s energy system.”

With the draft energy strategy now proposing even more ambitious targets for renewable energy generation, harnessing the wind above Scotland’s seas will continue to play a key role in meeting that target at lowest cost.