North Star Renewables’ SOVs at an offshore wind farm, artist impression

Operation Zero Gathers Offshore Wind Majors

The UK Department for Transport and the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult have unveiled the Department’s ‘Operation Zero’, which aims to accelerate the decarbonisation of offshore wind operations and maintenance (O&M) vessels working in the North Sea’s offshore wind farms.

North Star Renewables

At an event as part of COP26 in Glasgow, the UK Maritime Minister Robert Courts announced the initiative, which will convene a coalition of 28 founding signatories from across the offshore wind supply chain from the UK, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Belgium, including industry majors Siemens Gamesa, Ørsted, RWE, Vattenfall, ScottishPower Renewables, Equinor, ABP, Lloyds Register, Bibby Marine, North Star Renewables, and the ORE Catapult.

The vision of ‘Operation Zero’ is for zero-emission vessels to be deployed at North Sea offshore wind farms by 2025, while also taking into consideration the land-side infrastructure solutions needed to upscale and maintain the operation of the vessels.

Paulina Hobbs, CEO Service for Siemens Gamesa, said: ”SGRE are delighted to be signing up to the Operation Zero pledge where we will work with companies right across the O&M vessel value chain to make cleaner wind farm marine logistics a reality. With SGRE currently chartering in excess of 20% of all O&M vessels across the North Sea wind farm operations, we have a responsible role to drive innovation, collaboration and support the industry take the ambitious steps that are required.”

The initiative was informed by previous research undertaken by ORE Catapult and the Workboat Association, who developed a technology roadmap outlining a route to the decarbonisation of North Sea offshore wind O&M.

It suggested that the industry will build as many as 1,400 new vessels between now and 2050 just for O&M, including more than 300 SOVs, as the European offshore wind grows from the 25 GW operational capacity today to 400 GW by 2050, with 100 GW based in the UK, which equates to a sixteen-fold growth in less than 30 years.

Achieving an accelerated decarbonisation scenario for North Sea O&M would result in reducing carbon emissions by 1.2 MtCO2e per year compared with a ‘business as usual’ approach, the equivalent of taking 240,000 cars off the road, ORE Catapult said.

And UK and North Sea shipyards could also steal a competitive advantage by leading the development, design, build and operation of these high-value vessels. According to ORE Catapult, if the UK captures 25 per cent of the European O&M vessel-building market, this could generate revenue between GBP 2.2 to GBP 4.2 billion out to 2050, supporting 1,400 direct and 2,500 indirect jobs.

”The offshore wind industry is committed to a rapid transition to net-zero operations and provides a fantastic springboard for broader maritime decarbonisation,” Andrew Jamieson, CEO of ORE Catapult, said.

”Right through the supply chain, we’ll see growth and job creation opportunities that will aid the transition from the maritime diesel fuels of today to the zero-emission, high-value technologies and skills of tomorrow, with much of this growth taking place in coastal communities where it is most needed. Innovation is essential if we are to achieve this vision. Operation Zero provides a solid foundation for the future of collaborative innovation between industry partners, and with the support of government. ORE Catapult is fully committed to Operation Zero and we look forward to working to support the industry to innovate and accelerate the transition to net-zero whilst creating economic opportunity for the UK.”