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Offshore wind

Boom in offshore wind brings revenue opportunity to Irish firms

The boom in offshore wind represents a huge international opportunity for Irish companies with digital, engineering and marine expertise. As a global leader in the sector, the UK represents an ideal entry point for the Irish supply chain.

 With the race to Net Zero and the drive to decarbonise the energy sector, it’s no surprise governments and industry are moving to expedite offshore wind projects – this is a low carbon and cost-effective route to large-scale energy generation.

Hundreds of projects are already in planning, under construction or operational across the globe, with an ever-increasing pipeline.

The expected global spend on offshore wind projects over the next two decades is into the trillions. “The scale of the opportunity is massive and we’re seeing a huge curve upwards in development coming up to 2030,” says Isla Robb of EC20, which specialises in supply chain and business development for offshore wind.

The skyrocketing growth in the sector means it offers agile Irish companies with relevant experience (or who are open to pivoting) multiple new paths to generate revenue.

Urgent need to expand supply chain

These projects are extraordinarily complex undertakings, typically led by large developers such as Ørsted and Iberdrola, supported by Tier 1 contractors, OEMs and multiple other contractors across the supply chain, who carry out everything from seabed surveys and dredging to turbine construction and remote monitoring.

The huge surge in planning and construction in the industry globally is causing massive demand for development services and bottlenecks in the supply chain, while developers are also contending with infrastructure support requirements and ongoing skills shortages.

That supply chain demand is one of the key threats to the aggressive growth plans of the sector, as there simply are not enough active, capable suppliers in the market. Irish firms who can step up and fill the gaps will find substantial opportunities to drive revenue.

Asked where is the biggest need in the industry, leading industry figure Benj Sykes, a Vice-President at Ørsted says, “The trite answer is everywhere. Across the whole development cycle from getting the seabed surveyed to submitting proposals for consent, no part of the supply chain is oversupplied right now. We need more capacity across all of it.”

UK is a smart first stop for exporters

While Ireland could be a key player in the market, given our obvious and abundant ocean wind resource, the sector here remains ripe for development.

Close to home, however, the UK is at the forefront of offshore wind globally and installed the most offshore wind capacity of any country in Europe in 2021. In fact, it’s anticipated that offshore wind could provide half or more of the UK’s energy needs by 2050, with 8,000 or more turbines and 182 substations in action by 2040.

More than 30 offshore wind farms are already operating off the coast of the UK, including in the Irish Sea, with many more in development and planned for construction. Some, such as Walney, Hornsea 1 and London Array, have close to 200 wind turbines each, meaning they can produce over 1GW of power per farm.

The UK is expected to turn on a further 15GW of offshore wind capacity by 2026, according to industry body WindEurope, ahead of France (12GW), Spain (10GW) and Sweden (7GW).

“We encourage Irish companies to see the UK as a valuable first export market in offshore wind,” says Darragh Cotter, a Senior Market Advisor based in Enterprise Ireland’s London office. “Establishing a track record there can be a springboard for global success in this fast-growing sector. Furthermore, the expertise built overseas will also help to develop our domestic offshore wind sector and enhance Ireland’s local supply chain content in the years ahead.”

Many Irish companies are already providing expert services to the offshore wind market, such as Gavin & Doherty Geosolutions, a specialist offshore and marine engineering firm active in 15 international markets.

New Irish supply chain cluster: Gael Offshore Network

To bring together these companies, to grow Ireland’s offshore wind expertise and to prime Irish companies to meet the needs of international clients in the sector, Enterprise Ireland launched the Gael Offshore Network in June 2022, building on the organisation’s work in offshore wind over recent years.

The network is a cluster of more than 75 Irish companies with expertise in areas including:

  • civil and marine engineering
  • geotechnical and geophysical capability
  • materials handling
  • environmental surveys and data collection
  • an innovative expertise in digital for offshore and associated cybersecurity.

Explore the data and digital opportunity offshore

When it comes to offshore wind, Enterprise Ireland sees particular potential for Irish companies in digital and data-driven solutions. This is due to the national Irish capability in this space and to the fact the market remains wide open for solutions that can make any point of the offshore wind process safer or cheaper. Particular areas of interest include:

  • data collection and analysis
  • cybersecurity
  • remote condition monitoring
  • telecoms and connectivity
  • artificial intelligence, machine learning and IoT (internet of things)
  • automation and robotics

Leading the way in bringing digital innovation offshore are companies such as Louth-based XOCEAN, which uses its fleet of uncrewed surface vessels (USVs) to collect ocean data in a safe and carbon-neutral way. The company have already worked on 150 projects across 18 international markets and serves offshore wind clients in seven markets.

Likewise, Cork-based Green Rebel, another marine data acquisition and analysis specialist has the ability to serve offshore wind clients across the UK and Europe, as well as in the US.

Telecommunications service provider Vilicom has also brought its extensive expertise in wireless connectivity to the offshore wind market, providing wireless communications solutions to wind farms such as Hornsea 2 and Moray East in the UK.

“Companies that might pivot into offshore wind should understand that the management of stakeholders is complex in this area and end-to-end service management is vital,” says Vilicom’s CEO Sean Keating. “And you always have to build in contingency for the weather!”

Other digital and connectivity specialists already meeting the needs of offshore wind clients in Ireland and overseas include TechWorks Marine, BrightWind Analysis, and EMR Integrated Solutions

The supply chain opportunity for Irish firms

Irish companies keen to join the offshore wind supply chain will find opportunity anywhere they can:

  • increase efficiency
  • reduce costs
  • mitigate risk
  • maximise safety
  • eliminate bottlenecks.

Consider where in the wind farm process your firm’s services and capabilities might find a niche. That could be across:

  1. Site selection and feasibility
  2. Scoping and planning
  3. Manufacturing, construction and connection to grid
  4. Operations and maintenance

Collaboration is the path to success

When leading industry figures and supply chain representatives came together at the Enterprise Ireland Offshore Wind Forum 2022, the word mentioned most was ‘collaboration’.

Offshore wind is complex and success hinges on collaboration between developers, Tier 1 contractors, suppliers, ports, consultants and the public sector. “Collaboration is key,” says Robb. “In order for wind farms to be built to schedule, developers need to collaborate one with one another.

“For example, developers need to negotiate who sequencing of vessels and ports usage,” she adds. “Collaboration also comes into play down the supply chain as suppliers can  often offer better services or product offerings by working with each other than they could by operating separately.”

John Casserly, Head of P&C Major Projects at SSE Renewables, agrees: “When we work with the supply chain, it is collaborative not transactional. We want to co-operate with people with the right competency, capability and safety culture, and bring them into the process early.”

Interested in the international offshore wind market? Discover how your company can meet the needs of global offshore wind clients.

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.

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