The UK government’s drive towards a green recovery from the economic fallout of COVID-19 emphasises the importance of meeting the target to produce 40GW of offshore wind energy by 2030. Julian Brown, Vice President and UK Country Manager for MHI Vestas Offshore Wind, is confident that the country can achieve this seemingly ambitious goal, as he says:
“The offshore wind industry has continually exceeded targets and estimates for growth and deployment, but that doesn’t mean that meeting 40GW by 2030 will be easy. The government as well as key market players will have to respond, including manufacturers, developers and port owners who are responsible for different aspects of the supply chain.
“The offshore wind industry itself has been remarkably resilient in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have been able to keep wind farms running by implementing carefully considered plans in the deployment of our technicians to these sites, including creating our own support bubbles on ships. We have also managed to keep our factories going – wind turbines are large machines, but producing them during the pandemic has been relatively straightforward through optimising manufacturing processes with physical distancing of personnel included.
“By the 2030 deadline, we are likely to see wind turbine technology that is even smarter due to advanced features such as AI systems, thereby increasing production from any wind parks commissioned before 2030. When it comes to reaching 40GW, however, it is less about wind turbine technology and more about optimising manufacturing for these huge products. That’s where I see the real investment being made by 2030.”
Julian believes the government has a critical role to play in helping the industry achieve the target of 40GW by 2030.
“Policy makers have to work closely with the development community to create pathways for bringing the electricity produced ashore and connecting to the grid, especially in locations such as East Anglia,” he says. “A collective approach is needed to understand and address the cumulative impacts of offshore wind too – it’s important that we address these issues early on to avoid delays in consenting the locations of wind farm projects. Additionally, the government needs to support port infrastructures to attract inward investment by tier one manufacturers, with sites that are competitive for those manufacturers to build both UK and overseas projects.
“It is vital that the government understands offshore wind is a global market. There are already extensive opportunities for companies to become involved in installation and deployment, which will continue to evolve. The real opportunities that will ultimately open up for companies within the UK market will occur when tier one manufacturers are able to supply 40GW on a globally competitive basis from the UK.
“There are enough projects in the pipeline to reach the 40GW target. Not necessarily every project will be consented, but there is enough volume and appetite in both England and Scotland to develop further sites. This goes straight to the heart of my conviction that the UK government should facilitate major port infrastructure plans for quayside and associated land on the North Sea coast. This makes a compelling case for inward investment and will create opportunities for smaller businesses to get involved. In turn, those sites could export product to the global market.”
The continued progression of offshore wind globally is estimated to create a staggering 900,000 jobs over the coming decade,* as Julian explains what companies are looking for in their growing workforce:
“We are always in search of people with a passion for renewable energy. This industry gets under your skin and we need people who are fired up to join our work to reduce carbon emissions. As such, we employ people in all areas of offshore wind – from our factories all the way through to installation, logistics and servicing wind farms over their lifetime. There are a wide range of skills required for these roles, and we welcome applications from a diverse group of people. We need bright and enthusiastic candidates.”
Reflecting on his maritime expertise as a keen sailor, Julian applies the lessons he learned at sea to his professional life. He adds:
“The parallels that can be drawn from being on a sailing vessel and working in offshore wind are fairly evident in terms of teamwork. However, when you are operating a sailing boat at sea, you become very aware of energy and how it relates to running the engine, maybe using electricity from solar or wind power, and how much of this electricity is stored in batteries. For me, that is a metaphor for society as a whole, the choices we make in terms of energy and the consequences of those choices. As a sailor, you treat electricity with respect. You nurture it, value it and never waste it, which is a compelling element of the offshore wind mission.”
“If you want to be part of the industry, RenewableUK’s Global Offshore Wind 2020 virtual conference and exhibition is the single most important event for both the UK and international offshore wind sector. It is particularly tough to maintain close relationships with colleagues at the moment, so it’s essential that we support this forum and leverage it to drive the industry forward.”
Find out more at https://events.renewableuk.com/gow20
Global Offshore Wind 2020 virtual conference and exhibition
*Global Wind Energy Council. Global Offshore Wind Report 2020. [Accessed October 2020]
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