Darragh Cotter, Cleantech Market Advisor at Enterprise Ireland, describes exciting prospects for a world-leading Irish supply chain in the offshore wind market.
An ambitious industry plan recently presented by the UK Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC) includes the aim of generating 30GW of offshore wind power by 2030, up from a current operational capacity of 7GW, with a further 7GW already consented or under construction. The 2030 vision will require a £48 billion investment in UK infrastructural spending, supporting upwards of 27,000 skilled jobs. The plan will provide more than one third of the UK’s electricity needs and strengthen the nation’s position as the global leader in offshore wind.
The commitment by the UK offshore wind industry to work with the UK Government on an ambitious and transformative sector deal will require a significant mobilisation of the supply chain, and Irish companies are ready to act. Enterprise Ireland research shows that there are well over 50 Irish companies with proven capability and experience across the offshore wind supply chain. Additionally, many companies possess the ability to quickly and effectively pivot in to the sector to provide reliable and innovative products and services to an ever-growing industry.
Irish expertise in the offshore wind sector
There is a well-established history of Irish companies driving growth within the offshore wind sector, going back to Arklow Bank in 2004. Located 12 km off Ireland’s east coast, Arklow Bank was one of the first offshore wind farms to be developed in either Ireland or the UK. Commissioned in 2004 by Irish-owned Airtricity (now part of SSE plc), the project brought over 25MW of clean renewable electricity to the grid. Airtricity subsequently brought their Arklow Bank experience to the 504MW Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm off the Suffolk coast, where construction was completed in 2012.
Irish influence in the UK can also be seen in the Hornsea One project off the Yorkshire coast. One of the world’s biggest (Round 3) wind farms, it was developed by Irish company, Mainstream Renewable Power, who also developed the Neart Na Gaoithe zone off the East coast of Scotland prior to its recent sale to EDF.
When it comes to maintaining wind farms, Irish companies come to the fore. Irish Sea Contractors work with Ørsted to provide subsea inspections for its offshore assets around the UK coast. The same company is also leading on innovation in the subsea cable repair supply chain with its patented Habitat solution. Other Irish companies, such as Xocean, use unique Unmanned Surface Vehicles to provide seabed mapping and turnkey data collection services for the offshore wind industry. Furthermore, Irish companies bring excellent geotechnical and environmental engineering experience to the offshore wind industry. For example, companies such as Gavin and Doherty Geosolutions work with offshore wind developers to identify uncertainties, risks and challenges in the design, installation and operation of offshore wind farms such as Neart na Gaoithe.
Vessel design and build are also strong areas of Irish expertise. For example, Irish vessel builders such as Mooney Boats and Arklow Marine have substantial experience in building support vessels for the UK offshore wind industry, with several Irish companies also involved in vessel management.
With ever-increasing offshore wind generation, demand-side response services offered by GridBeyond are essential to ensure flexibility and a stable supply of electricity to the grid. The importance of grid solutions to the future of the energy industry is reflected in the establishment of an Enterprise Ireland Smart Grid cluster in 2018, which showcases collective Irish capability in this space. Increased requirements for grid connections and the construction of power transmission and substation infrastructure will also be a key element of the industry’s growth. Irish strength in this space can be seen in companies such as H&MV Engineering, Kirby Group Engineering, Suir Engineering and Gaeltec Utilities.
On the research front, Ireland’s universities and research centres such as the Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy (MaREI) have been at the cutting edge in the development and testing of next generation technologies and systems.
Irish companies are primed and well positioned to help the UK meet its 2030 targets, as was illustrated during a recent Enterprise Ireland and SSE Offshore Wind Exchange at SSE’s Glasgow office. An Irish delegation of 15 companies met with senior SSE executives to showcase Irish expertise, discuss SSE’s future project plans, and discuss how the Irish supply chain can support the development of the UK offshore wind industry.
With a new trading relationship between the UK and the EU on the horizon, Enterprise Ireland-backed companies remain wholeheartedly committed to working with and supporting our nearest neighbours in the development of its offshore wind industry. To further highlight this commitment to the UK market, Enterprise Ireland will host a UK offshore wind industry delegation to Ireland in March 2019 to deepen collaboration and highlight the crucial areas of support that the Irish supply chain can provide across the UK offshore wind industry.
For more information on Ireland’s capability in the offshore wind sector and on the UK delegation visit to Ireland, please contact Darragh Cotter in Enterprise Ireland’s London office at: Darragh.Cotter@enterprise-ireland.com