Am I alone in seeing the links between gigawatts of offshore wind in the North Sea to the fossil-free energy grid needed to support the infrastructure that will be required at our airports and military bases in a low carbon future?
These innovative sectors (aviation, defence and wind) have plenty of tech in common. Just consider how much yesterday’s science fiction is already becoming a near future reality. We don’t need to go beyond the first letter of the alphabet: automation, autonomy, autonomous and AI.
I believe that with innovative approaches, opportunities exist for stakeholders to collaborate and realise the benefits for aviation (defence and civil) while facilitating national, regional and global policies on the deployment of wind.
It’s been a very long time since wind could be thought of as a new kid on the block; it has evolved over decades to full commercialisation - generating 17.1% of the UK’s electricity needs last year and growing. In the UK, offshore wind alone will meet over a third of UK power needs by 2030, and RenewableUK’s latest forecasts show huge international growth for offshore wind in the next five years.
It’s exciting to be working with Vattenfall, which has the 2nd largest portfolio of offshore wind across Europe (see RenewableUK’s chart below). Within that pipeline are 2 of the largest projects in the UK, Norfolk Vanguard and Boreas, which will deliver over 10% of the Sector Deal’s targets between them.
Vattenfall has invested £3.5bn on 11 onshore and offshore windfarms in the UK since 2008, producing enough power for more than 700,000 UK households a year. And for the future, our pipeline of UK onshore and offshore projects will power more than 4 million UK homes by 2030, as well as bringing £billions in investment.
There are challenges as well as opportunities ahead. To date, in the UK, the wind sector has worked with government and stakeholders on aviation (defence and civil) radar mitigation. There have been projects to upgrade NATS radars, replace military radars and deploy new radars at airports, many of these initiatives led by, or included significant support and contribution from Vattenfall, working with partners and stakeholders. These have unlocked gigawatts of wind capacity, that’s great news.
But now there is a need for a new strategy and next generation of enduring and sustainable solutions to enable the step-up of wind deployment in the 2020s. And the UK is not alone, this situation is replicated across Europe and beyond, as aviation radar objections remains a top 5 project risk for many developers to resolve and manage. At Vattenfall, we are determined to partner with all players to find such solutions in the UK, through our thought leadership and allocating resources to the aviation workstream of the offshore wind sector deal, with fellow members of RenewableUK and the Aviation Investment Fund Company Limited (AIFCL), as well as further afield, as a core and committed member of WindEurope’s new Aviation Task Force.
There is a significant opportunity for the UK to be a world leader in this field, building an innovative infrastructure of communications, navigation and surveillance (CNS) systems, with a suite of world leading innovative technologies, operations, services and supporting regulations, standards and guidance with wind in mind.
And this is not just about managing impact on radars, it’s also how helicopter and aerial drone operations can be safely and effectively employed in support of wind projects. It’s about having lighting and marking on the turbines which are effective for aviation as well as being environmentally sensitive. . That’s why the industry has been working with stakeholders on new guidance on these issues too.
The first graph below indicates how much of the future generations of offshore wind farms are going to be further offshore across UK and Europe, and thus may need offshore aviation as part of their integrated logistics and O&M operations, including helicopters and drones. The second graph shows how the number of taller onshore turbines in development in Scotland is driving the need for new thinking and technology for aviation lighting.
To enable this, Government and stakeholder action is needed.
Clear direction, senior level accountability, and governance is required for departments and stakeholders to work together on strategies and policies, to address short term deployment issues, and to develop a future strategic change programme to manage these mutually beneficial sectors. We need systems and practices which focus on an effective CNS infrastructure and operations, while facilitating Government strategies for energy, transport and defence. This can be achieved through an inter-agency and collaborative evolution of the UK’s Aviation Management Board which is led by BEIS with defence, aviation and wind stakeholders.
During the RenewableUK Wind & Aviation 2019 event at the NEC, Birmingham on 30 April, you can come and engage with key figures from the stakeholder community, with a unique interactive workshop and networking approach. The workshops will cover radar and surveillance systems; helicopter operations; aviation lighting and marking; drones – resulting in a unique post-event report. RenewableUK will also be launching Issue 2 of its Offshore Renewables Aviation Guidance (ORAG) and issuing its new drones guidance document for peer-review.
Engage with representatives and delegates of BEIS, Scottish Government, CAA, NATS, MOD, airports and RenewableUK membership. This will also be an opportunity to engage at an international level with representatives from G+ Offshore Wind Health & Safety, HeliOffshore, North Sea Energy Forum and WindEurope initiatives, as well as tech exhibitors from across both sides of the Atlantic, including the UK, Denmark, France, Netherlands, and USA. This is a truly international event which will make progress on a global aviation issue.
That’s why we at are proud to be partners of this event, so we can encourage and contribute to the broad thinking and engagement needed to realise the benefits – I hope to see you there as your compere for the day, and with my colleagues who will be leading discussions during workshops.
Read more and register for Wind & Aviation 2019 here.