The UK government has released ambitious targets for renewable electricity generation from wind farms. It wants a 25% increase in offshore wind power capacity, rising from the current 30GW, to be generating 40GW by 2030. A significant increase, it is needed to satisfy the future energy gap due to industry’s requirement for clean energy for decarbonisation projects. Wind generated electricity is the key to being able to achieve these goals and scaling to this degree will require both new fixed and floating installations. The question is, can wind energy infrastructure providers rise to this challenge?
The Port of Tyne believes it can. We are ideally placed to support any developments within the northern North Sea area spanning a 200 mile radius from the site. In the short term, this includes designated farm sites at Hornsea and Dogger Bank, moving to Inch Cape and Seagreen within the next five years, plus Marr Bank and Berwick Bank within the next decade.
Just as the UK government wants to increase its clean electricity supply, so too do other governments elsewhere in the world. This international rush to expand will seriously compromise availability of the resources needed and sequencing projects adequately to satisfy this demand will be a challenge. It will be especially difficult because in tandem with the rush to install, is a drive to increase turbine capacity. Whereas before, turbines were designed to generate 6 or 8 GW, we now need to accommodate turbines generating up to 20GW. These new extra large turbines require much bigger support vessels and fewer ports can handle them. In the case of floating wind farms, a 20GW turbine needs a floater that is too big to be accommodated in most UK ports.
All stakeholders need to consider the implication of this desire for ever increasing turbine size - fixed or floating - and the impact this will have on the supply chain. It affects ports, tier one suppliers and all the plant and equipment vessels they operate. Larger turbines are attractive to economically generate the level of power needed, but they create inherent supply chain obstacles, since their size excludes so many ports from becoming suitable O&M or manufacturing bases. Thanks to the Port of Tyne’s 13m draft and 65-70m beam, we can accommodate the vast majority of turbines.
A further complication in the UK exists because our government has set targets for 60% of turbine components to have been locally manufactured. This is a sound policy, but it affects the supply chain because there will be increased demand for making components, for instance monopiles, turbines, blades, towers, cells and cable manufacturing. All this needs to be happening from port locations at roughly the same time that installations also need to be going ahead. It means suitable waterside land needs to be made available and quickly.
Having enough ports to operate from and enough tier 1 installation companies with service capacity could be an issue. Additionally, when we have so many projects in the UK competing for tier 1 supply contracts, or contractors competing in other parts of Europe for projects, it creates enormous market pressure. Increasing resource availability will be the key to controlling price fluctuations.
At the Port of Tyne, our preparations to meet the increased demand for land are well underway. We started with the launch of Tyne Clean Energy Park in 2020, after clearing 200 acres of suitable space for the offshore renewables sector. Our work to develop Tyne Dock Enterprise Park, which is being developed in tandem with building Equinor’s O&M base for Dogger Bank, has progressed well. Now works are commencing at Tyne Renewables Quay, with a new quayside facility that is especially suited to the manufacturing and fabrication of offshore wind components due to operational by 2023.
We believe we are doing our bit here on the Tyne to accelerate time to market for operators and provide access to much needed resources. There is a huge opportunity for the UK’s offshore wind industry to supply the UK with its clean energy for many years to come and with the right long term support, the sector will fulfil its true potential.
Author: Simon Brett, Commercial Director for Port Services at the Port of Tyne and a specialist in the offshore wind industry. He is a panellist on the Renewable UK Ports and Vessels webinar, 8th July 2021.