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Major offshore wind cable connection supply chain gaps put project plans in jeopardy

The current manufacturing capacity of export power cables for offshore wind farms does not meet the needs of developers, both in UK and in the rest of the world, concludes a new study from The Crown Estate.

“Currently demand outstrips supply for the significant global requirements for both export cables and interconnector cables, creating a serious supply chain gap,” it says. “With global developers providing a strong offshore wind programme, there is an outstanding opportunity for new suppliers in the market, but there is a need for industry to improve demand forecasting and reduce lead times to increase supply capacity.”

The Cable Manufacturing Capability study finds that in the 2012-2018 period, demand in the high certainty category (offshore wind projects most likely to proceed) for extruded cables is "equal to or exceeds supply capacity”. On average, demand exceeds supply by 33%. At worst, in 2015, demand exceeds supply by 85%.

If taking a longer-term view, the supply gap widens significantly – for the period 2012 to 2021, demand exceeds supply by 179% on average,. However, based on current project plans, 2018 could prove a major crisis point with demand for offshore extruded cables exceeding supply by a staggering 367%.

New manufacturing facilities will reduce the gap, but “given the lead time for factory construction and commissioning, action is required now”, stresses the study. It is “key” that investors believe “the UK is fully committed to offshore development”, it adds.

Huub den Rooijen, Head of Offshore Wind at The Crown Estate said the study, produced by Cable Consulting International (CCI), identifies “a strong business opportunity for new suppliers” in the global export cables market as well as improvements developers could make “to support this essential part of the supply chain”.

With the UK demand accounting for 57% of export cable supply needs, he stressed: “It's vital there is a sufficient and strong supply chain, as without it the UK could be delayed on delivering its world leading offshore wind programme."

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Policy, investment and markets  •  Wind power