Britain’s world-leading experience in oil and gas could be harnessed to put the country at the forefront of the growing offshore renewables market, which is set to spend £210bn in the coming decade.
And a new series of innovation challenges have been set to the sector as it continues to come to terms with lower oil prices and weakening demand.
Launched by the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult in Aberdeen today, the challenges urge companies to diversify and take an early lead in the global renewables revolution.
Andrew Tipping, Commercialisation Manager at ORE Catapult, said: “Aberdeen, and the UK as a whole, has extensive experience in oil and gas and the skills base, both in exploration and drilling, could be invaluable to the growth and development of offshore renewables. The value of this should not be underestimated, particularly at a time when the oil and gas sector continues to contend with lower oil prices and a need to reduce operating costs.
“Diversifying into renewables provides greater resilience for companies at the same time as providing an opportunity to take an early lead in what will be a huge global industry.
“It’s an unmissable opportunity.”
Launched ahead of a National Subsea Research Institute Initiative (NSRI) to encourage companies to diversify into offshore renewables, the challenges will invite companies across the UK to develop solutions to a number of issues facing the sector, from improving maintenance techniques and finding better foundation fixings for wind and tidal turbines, to finding cost-effective cable surveying and ice-reduction coatings.
The challenges are spread across six broad themes: blades, electrical infrastructure, foundations, operations and maintenance, powertrain innovation and wave and tidal, and were identified by ORE Catapult in partnership with industry and academia.
Andrew continued: “The aim of these challenges is two-fold, to bring down the overall cost of offshore renewable technology, and to drive growth for UK companies.
“Many of the challenges we’re presenting today are not unique to offshore renewables. Similar issues will be faced by oil and gas companies and related subsea sectors. We’ve teamed up with NSRI to highlight these opportunities and make sure that companies grasp them as quickly as possible and steal a march on our global competitors.
“The emergence of offshore renewables could be Britain’s new oil boom – the potential is absolutely huge.”
Among those companies to move into offshore renewables is Aberdeen-based offshore engineering provider, W3G Marine Ltd. Predominantly working in offshore oil and gas, the company met with ORE Catapult to discuss potential innovation challenges for offshore wind to find an avenue in which they felt they could assist.
As a result, W3G Marine started working on a drone-based erosion inspection technology concept for offshore wind farms, a technology that could drastically reduce operations and maintenance costs.
“W3G Marine Ltd are developing a drone deployed inspection tool for offshore wind turbine blade damage, and have been working with ORE Catapult during the design stage of the project. The Catapult has been an invaluable help, and the process has opened up opportunities for us to diversify our product offering and explore new markets,” said John Giles, Director of W3G Marine Ltd.