Global events over the past two years have highlighted the growing need for us to be adaptable and prepared for the future, both in industry and across society as a whole.
With this in mind, sustainability continues to be a very important issue and in recent years, Ireland has become increasingly involved in the offshore wind industry.
Being an island nation, we are well placed to harness wind energy and although we are relatively new to the game, Ireland has a capability in the digital sector that can be pivoted to meet the needs of the Offshore Wind industry globally.
“There are a number of countries which have become experts in certain areas of the industry,” says, Liam Curran, Senior Technologist with Enterprise Ireland. “So at the moment, if heavy installation capability is required, the Dutch would be seen by many as the experts. Other nations are specialists in Floating Offshore Wind.” So what can Ireland develop that makes Ireland the “go to” place for a particular capability?
Despite other European countries having already cornered certain areas of the industry market, the marine expert says Ireland has a lot to offer with its own unique expertise.
“Although we have only been involved for a few years, we already have established an offshore wind industry cluster – the Gael Offshore Network – which involves 60 companies,” he says. “We have been looking at those companies to identify what we, as a country, can offer to the industry which is uniquely Irish – and one area of capability in that 60 strong group of companies is Ireland’s ICT and digital strength.
“As projects go further and further offshore, the industry needs connectivity, communications systems, IoT technology and remote monitoring in real time for units which are way out at sea. It is also going to need things like robotics, machine learning and artificial intelligence – and overarching all of these will have to be cyber security because the units are very valuable assets.”
Curran says that Ireland has all the required capabilities to corner the digital section of the industry.
“What we have begun to do is to look at the companies in the Gael Offshore Network and indeed others which have ICT and IoT capability who may not have previously looked at offshore wind yet and see if we can pull together that capability into a specific offering for the industry,” he says.
“We are creating an ecosystem where in the even that IoT, connectivity, communication systems or cyber security is needed, then the Irish are the people to go to.”
According to Curran, establishing Ireland as the ‘go-to’ country for digital expertise in the sector looks positive as there are already many companies working in this space who are either directly involved or could easily pivot.
“Companies already set up for this are the likes of Vilicom who do 4G and 5G offshore communication systems,” he says. “We also have companies like Druid Software and Net Feasa in Co. Kerry in the south of Ireland, who are involved in this area of offshore communications systems . In addition to these we have cyber security firms who are already providing the security for these systems. So what is potentially very interesting is that we can take all of this Irish capability and strength and adapt it specifically to offshore wind and then Ireland becomes the go-to place for that type of expertise.
“But this will not displace any of the other capability we have around vessels, subsea vessels, civil engineering, the onshore sub stations or anything related to the broader Irish strengths, but the digital element is something Ireland has which could be a unique offering to the industry.”
With a number of offshore wind projects forecast for Ireland itself in the coming years, Curran says there will be a lot of opportunity in the industry in the near future.
“In Ireland, we have the skillsets needed for the offshore wind sector,” he says. “Here at Enterprise Ireland, we are working to ensure that the industry is aware of the Irish capability and engage with it to the benefit of their own needs and those of the companies, SMEs, contractors and workforce in and around Ireland.
“So together, we are beginning to explore all of the opportunities available and see if we can build it together. With this in mind, a subset of capability in our Gael Offshore Network will be specifically focused on the digital element as we know there is an industry-wide demand for that capability, and we don’t believe there is another nation with that as their key strength.”