Irish companies with digital, engineering and marine expertise could avail of a huge opportunity to scale internationally if they expand into or pivot to serving the offshore wind market.
“There are significant opportunities for Irish firms to drive revenue right across the offshore wind supply chain,” says Darragh Cotter, a Senior Market Advisor at Enterprise Ireland.
“From the initial planning process right through to wind farm operations and maintenance, Irish companies will find clients if they can offer innovative products and services, especially around digital and data-based solutions, but also in engineering and marine services.”
As the UK is one of the world’s leading offshore wind markets, it’s a sensible first stop for companies seeking to expand or pivot into this sector. Offshore wind projects are complex and expensive, however, and standards are sky-high, so it’s important to understand how best to meet the needs of potential clients in this space.
What do developers and Tier 1 contractors look for?
More than anything, suppliers in this high-risk market must be able to show a strong safety culture. Innovation is crucial too, especially as developers want to find clever, efficient ways of working given the risk they take in making vast early-stage investments.
“We have 1,500 or more suppliers on our database, and use 300 or 400 of those a lot,” says John Casserly, Head of P&C Major Projects at SSE Renewables. “How to get in and get used is by being innovative.”
Another key driver of supplier choice is sustainability, as developers are committed to driving down emissions throughout their supply chains as they work towards Net Zero.
Flexibility is also vital, says Gavin Kerr, Global Cranes Director at global tier one contractor Mammoet. “While a very strong safety culture is absolutely your minimum for entry, then it’s about your level of services, including flexibility, responsiveness and communication style.
“Things happen on projects that no one could have foreseen. Showing us that you can think outside the box and help us out in our most difficult moments can only reinforce your reputation and strengthen our relationship.”
Other criteria include:
- a relevant track record where possible
- being able to balance quality, scheduling and price
- an understanding of the overall process, timelines and interdependencies, especially with dozens if not hundreds of subcontractors engaged on any one project
- an awareness of the need for public engagement and community building.
Offshore wind projects must often have ‘local content’, or suppliers located in the same jurisdiction. Through true collaborations with suppliers in global markets, Irish firms can join and support local content rather than being sidelined by it.
Developers typically have open procurement portals on their website where potential suppliers can get in touch and open the door to a working relationship.
Could your business pivot into offshore wind?
Offshore wind offers clear opportunities for engineering companies and other contractors experienced in oil, gas, electricity and civil projects.
Even when a project is offshore, there are on-shore requirements for substations, grid connections, logistics, storage and so on. Long-established Irish firms such as heavy lift and crane specialists William O’Brien, for example, see clear opportunity to drive new revenue streams by supporting offshore wind.
Likewise, any firms with expertise in general energy infrastructure, power generation and grid management can bring much needed skills, knowledge and supply chain capacity to offshore wind.
The same applies to marine and ports services companies, with Irish firms like Alpha Marine, Irish Mainport and Fastnet Shipping already having expanded their client portfolios to include offshore wind developers and contractors. Offshore wind projects need a fleet of supporting vessels, from survey to crew transfer vessels, and port facilities that can cope with the storage and transport of huge turbine parts.
Next steps for interested firms
Companies keen to join the offshore wind supply chain should first work to get up (and stay up) to speed on market intelligence. Attend industry events to build both knowledge and networks, and consider joining clusters such as the Gael Offshore Network.
Expert advisors in Enterprise Ireland’s network of office across Europe, together with its Market Research Centre in Dublin can support your business as it investigates market opportunities, including by making local introductions and helping you to build your network.