The global energy system is undergoing rapid changes, with renewable energy comprising an ever-increasing share of our electricity grid. One of the key technologies leading the charge is offshore wind, with the UK leading the global market in 2020. The UK’s ambitious 2030 offshore wind generation targets mark it out as an international leader, with many countries, including Ireland, now following their lead with their own progressive 2030 targets.
Globally, Bloomberg New Energy Finance recently reported a 19% annual growth rate in offshore wind, faster than any other industry. Offshore wind is anticipated to grow from 22 Gigawatts (GW) in 2018 to 177 GW by 2030.
In response, Enterprise Ireland established an offshore wind industry cluster to identify and work with the key Irish companies with the capability to support the industry’s growth. Launched in early 2019, the cluster now comprises of over 50 companies. Its members have made substantial progress securing contracts with the UK offshore wind industry, tackling the sector’s most urgent technology challenges and identifying collaboration and innovation opportunities with fellow cluster members.
Cluster Launch and Irish Capability
The cluster was formally launched during the inaugural Enterprise Ireland Offshore Wind Forum in March 2019, which brought together over 120 Irish and UK industry delegates. The forum followed the completion of in-depth supply chain scoping exercises undertaken by EI’s cluster leaders, Darragh Cotter and Liam Curran, in which more than 80 Irish companies with the potential to supply the offshore wind industry were identified. Key Irish strengths stood out in the areas of IoT, big data, robotics and wireless communications with Ireland’s strong track record in engineering consultancy—particularly marine and electrical engineering—also identified as a key supply chain offering. The scoping exercises also unearthed Irish companies with the ability to effectively pivot into offshore wind from areas such as onshore wind and vessel services.
“Irish companies can offer highly skilled and specialised services to the offshore wind industry,” says Darragh Cotter, Senior Market Advisor in EI’s London office. “We have to lean into our strengths and box clever. Our capability assessments have given us a clear understanding of where Irish companies can add value. By focusing on existing national skills, we can make strong inroads into the offshore wind industry.”
EI’s assessments also helped to inform “Harnessing Our Potential”, a report published in March 2020 by the Irish Wind Energy Association which provides a comprehensive analysis of Ireland’s potential offshore wind energy supply chain. One of the report’s four key recommendations is to recognise the importance of the EI supply chain cluster and bolster its efforts.
Embedding the Irish supply chain into the UK offshore wind industry is seen by Enterprise Ireland as a crucial strategy to maximise local supply chain involvement in future Irish projects as well as helping to provide an essential testbed for additional global markets. Proving capability in real-world environments and developing relationships with key industry stakeholders is the name of the game.
Cluster Launch and Irish Capability
While the industry cluster is a vehicle to promote Irish capability to the offshore wind industry, the cluster also facilitates and encourages collaboration amongst Irish companies. “Companies get to know each other and their respective strengths, they can identify areas where they can work together and supplement each other’s offers. This has led to joint tenders and enhanced service offering. Fostering that collaboration, whenever possible, is vital to the ongoing success of the cluster,” according to Liam Curran, Senior Technologist with Enterprise Ireland.
Key to the success of the cluster is a collective understanding of how the industry operates, its procurement rules and practices, the key technological trends, and cost reduction drivers. EI has enacted several market-based initiatives to increase awareness amongst Irish SMEs. Activities to date have included;
- EI offshore wind insights programme: This mentorship programme, run from EI’s London office, links cluster members with UK industry experts. The mentors work one-to-one with companies to provide feedback and direction on the value proposition, market entry strategy, as well as customer and competitor landscape.
- Market study visits: 20 Irish companies took part in an EI visit to East Anglia; a key offshore wind hub on the East Coast of England. Cluster members met with industry leaders to discuss their supply chain needs and to view both an offshore wind construction and O&M ports.
- Webinar series: Due to the current pandemic, many planned events have been moved online in recent months. One such event, originally intended to be held in Croke Park, was transformed into an educational webinar series which is ongoing.
- Virtual conferences: In October 2020, Enterprise Ireland and eight Irish companies will have a presence at Global Offshore Wind, a three-day online event with over 400 speakers and exhibitors from across the offshore wind industry.
- Expert consultations: Enterprise Ireland has partnered with an expert third-party consultant in Scotland to provide additional one-to-one support to Irish SMEs seeking to work in the UK offshore wind industry.
Enterprise Ireland Cluster companies support over 4,000 jobs in Ireland, and with the development of the Irish offshore wind industry, there is a strong regional employment opportunity. Coastal communities that once relied on fishing can pivot their marine expertise to the sector and stand to benefit significantly from its development in Ireland. SSE, for example, have designated Arklow as their Operations and Maintenance base for their Arklow Bank project and anticipate employing 70 people locally. Marine Engineering and vessel handling skillsets in other port locations (such as Killybegs) are readily convertible to the needs of the industry. Irish ports are factoring offshore wind into their expansion plans, with Shannon Foynes, for example, looking at developing their port as a base for Floating Offshore Wind off the West Coast.
- Louth-based Unmanned Surface Vessel experts XOCEAN recently carried out seabed surveys on seven of the turbines at the 140-turbine Greater Gabbard wind farm for SSE Renewables & RWE Renewables. They have also signed a framework agreement with SSE Renewables to cover their entire offshore wind business.
- Mobile connectivity company Vilicom have signed a contract with Danish energy company Ørsted for wireless communications solutions on the Hornsea Two offshore wind farm. It recently launched its energy division as a direct response to the market opportunity promoted by Enterprise Ireland.
- Gavin & Doherty Geosolutions specialise in providing geophysics services to the industry and have built extensive global offshore wind experience in the UK, North Sea, Baltic Sea, Vietnam, and Taiwan.
- Irish Sea Contractors have developed an innovative subsea cable repair technology using a diver habitat system. This solution can be used to repair offshore wind electricity cables on the seabed.
- Inland and Coastal Marina Systems have delivered pontoon systems for Crew Transfer Vessel (CTV) ports and harbours servicing the offshore wind sector, with Vattenfall in Aberdeen a recent high-profile customer.
Ireland’s forward-thinking and innovation-focused offshore wind supply chain works with industry partners to accelerate the growth of offshore wind globally. From IoT and data analytics, to marine and electrical engineering, Irish companies offer flexible and solutions-oriented services, always focusing on the industry’s future trends and technology needs. Join Enterprise Ireland and leading Irish companies on Tuesday, October 20th to understand how they can support your offshore wind project. https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/6294943073015904011