As the UK’s leading innovation and research centre for offshore renewables, playing a pivotal role in de-risking technology innovation for the sector, ORE Catapult is in pole position to play a critical role in the sector’s response to the challenges presented by COVID-19.
In direct response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, ORE Catapult’s Operations & Maintenance Centre of Excellence (O&M CoE) established the Offshore Wind Operational Contingency Planning Group. The Group provides a single point of liaison between UK Government, regulators, the offshore wind industry and its supply chain. It supports effective collaboration to help deal with more immediate, short-term issues and plan for the medium to long-term challenges, maintaining business continuity in offshore wind development, construction and O&M.
The Group convenes on a bi-weekly call, with the agenda covering health and safety updates from industry, ‘burning issues’ for discussion, and updates from offshore wind clusters in both the UK and overseas – including the operational responses of countries such as Germany, Belgium, the USA and Taiwan. Participants vary from across Government and the industry, including representatives from BEIS and organisations such as the Workboat Association, Offshore Wind Health and Safety Group G+, Renewable UK, James Fisher and Sons, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, and Global Marine Group.
Chris Hill, ORE Catapult’s Operational Performance Director, said:
It was important that we responded quickly to industry’s requirement for an Operational Contingency Planning Group, as it became clear that we were entering a challenging period for the entire industry.
“Convening stakeholders, including from owners, OEMs, supply chain, Government, industry bodies and regulators, has led to essential dialogue, from which we’ve taken action to support business continuity and the operation of critical energy infrastructure offshore. We fully intend to keep the Group going, as we take the lessons learned from industry and begin to support green economic growth in the aftermath of COVID-19.
A significant output from the Group was the launch of a Crew Transfer Vessel (CTV) Innovation Challenge in response to the social distancing measures which restricted the number of crew onboard, to as little as four personnel at any one time. These social distancing measures impact the amount of work that can be undertaken on a wind farm, affecting jobs and ultimately energy production.
ORE Catapult’s O&M CoE, alongside the Knowledge Transfer Network, G+ offshore wind health and safety group, and the Workboat Association worked together to set an Innovation Challenge to address the problem. The challenge sought a cross-sector screening solution to divide crew safely and enable transit personnel numbers to be increased. A substantial number of applications were submitted before being shortlisted with the top solutions being pitched to the challenge setters. The top five finalists will now demonstrate their initiatives.
ORE Catapult also implemented a COVID-19 survey and used its results to produce a rolling report informing Government departments, including BEIS and DIT, of the short, medium and long-term needs of industry and proposing necessary action during the pandemic. Also, the Catapult’s Analysis and Insights team undertook modelling of the economic impact of the current crisis on the UK supply chain.
Going forward, the Group’s ongoing feedback to Government will include cluster group engagement from across the UK, as well as an in-depth understanding of how the industry will continue to operate effectively post Covid-19.