The capacity offered by offshore wind in the UK over the next 20-30 years is eye-watering. Getting to that point however, will be a monumental challenge that will rely upon vast technological advances. With this challenge, comes a massive opportunity for the offshore wind supply chain, including the maritime sector in the UK. The scale up required, especially for UK ports and vessels, to meet the demands of the offshore wind sector of the future are going to be huge and the work must start today.
This industry growth will only be enabled if supporting vessels required to deliver the installation and maintenance of the consented and planned wind farms in the North Sea are also available. Offshore wind is heavily dependent on the vessels utilised throughout the development lifecycle; in survey and construction, throughout Operations & Maintenance, all the way through to decommissioning.
Significant Service Operation Vessel (SOV) newbuilds will be required to support projected offshore wind growth. ORE Catapult modelling suggests this could equate to up to 149 vessels required in European Waters by 2030, circa 40% of which will be required for projects in UK waters. By 2050, if we are to reach as much as 700GW installed capacity, up to 309 vessels could be required.
Worldwide, it will come as no surprise that industry forecasts for support vessels in offshore wind are even more imposing, with Edda Wind having recently published figures showing there is a strong demand growth for an estimated 250+ vessels required worldwide by 2030 alone, excluding China.
Of course, with opportunity comes challenge; maximising UK content must be a priority.
Significant innovation by UK based companies is already taking place in relation to offshore recharging; port infrastructure; and vessel development but the Government and the industry itself still has much work to do in understanding how to deliver the required supply volume in a highly competitive market.
The need to do so whilst also pushing for decarbonisation is obvious. Although the benefits of the offshore wind industry in relation to climate change is overwhelmingly positive, the rapid growth of the sector means we will need significant innovation to ensure that its emissions impact decreases to 2030 and beyond.
Decarbonisation at ports must go hand in with the drive to develop zero emissions vessels. No doubt the offshore wind sector hopes and believes that the industry can provide a springboard for technology implementation, but it’s clear that collaboration is imperative if we are to succeed with these twin goals.
The Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult aims to help facilitate this collaboration. We are the UK’s leading research and innovation centre supporting the offshore renewable energy sector. We focus on supporting industry to assess, develop and deploy new technologies through supply chain assessment, technology appraisal and dynamic analysis of offshore systems and more. We do this at an impressive set of facilities: our Levenmouth Demonstration Turbine; the 3MW and 1MW drivetrain testing sites in Blyth , a Robotics and Autonomous Systems demonstration zone; and at our Operations and Maintenance Centre of Excellence at Grimsby, the world’s largest offshore wind O&M port.
So, while the challenges exist, there is innovation support for the industry being provided, turning this into a huge opportunity for the UK. If you’re working on the next big thing in clean maritime, please come and talk to us.