North East England leads growth in offshore wind sector

Offshore vessels in Port of Sunderland

Article by Guy Currey, Director of Invest North East England.  Featured in the BDaily News 5 November 2018.

A recent report by The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” are needed to prevent increasing levels of global warming.

There are many factors that contribute to climate change but our current energy supply is one of the biggest. Today, renewable energy sources only provide 25% of our global supply. The IPCC report argues that figure needs to increase to 85% by 2050.

I’ve just returned from the world’s leading expo for wind energy, WindEnergy Hamburg, and I was – excuse the pun – blown away by the scale and opportunity of the sector. I’ve written before about the UK’s booming offshore energy market but it was fascinating to see, first hand, the potential of renewable offshore wind.

The UK represents the biggest offshore wind market in the world and I very much hope the Department for International Trade attends WindEnergy Hamburg again, next time with an even bigger presence so we can further showcase our capabilities; particularly in light of the news that the UK’s offshore wind capacity is set to double over the next decade.

At just over 7GW of operational offshore wind capacity with another 7GW under construction or with contracts secured, the UK has the largest capacity of any country. This could double by 2030 thanks to the news that the UK government’s Contracts for Difference (CfD), which require firms to bid for financial support in auctions, will be held every two years and supported by a budget of £557m.

The auction process makes it clear to companies how much the government will subsidise, halving the cost of supporting offshore wind and making it an affordable source of clean energy. By 2020, a huge 20% of UK power could be generated by offshore wind.

That’s fantastic news for North East England where offshore wind is flourishing. We’re ideally located close to three major wind developments in the North Sea; Dogger Bank, Hornsea and Firth of Forth, and the business and supply chain cluster in the region is one of the fastest growing in the country.

We have the skills, technology, sites and experienced supply chain to support all areas of the offshore wind industry. This includes key capabilities in manufacturing offshore wind components, such as foundations, transition pieces, cables etc., installing and commissioning new wind farms and then offering a whole host of operations and maintenance (O&M) functions. Our proud industrial heritage and five first class universities mean we have access to a talented pool of highly skilled engineers the industry demands.

Potential investors coming to North East England are always incredibly impressed by the capability of our three rivers and their ports; Port of Tyne, Port of Sunderland and Port of Blyth (as well as facilities on Teesside to the south). All three offer unrivalled access to the North Sea wind farm developments and play a major role in supporting the sector through their major fabrication yards and development sites next to deep water, as well as the comprehensive port operations services and potential for O&M activities.

Another of the region’s key selling points is the UK’s flagship technology innovation and research centre for advancing wind, wave and tidal energy - The Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult. Based in Blyth, Northumberland, at the heart of the North East’s offshore wind sector, the ORE Catapult is a world-class research and development and testing facility for the world’s largest turbines and blades.

To read the full article please visit the BDaily website.

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