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All-Energy: Training, skills and standards needed for offshore renewable energy

Skill shortages, training and industry standards urgently need to be addressed if the UK is to fully harness its renewable energy ambitions, according to an EU funded study supported by Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG) and the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR).

The preliminary findings are from the EU-funded POWER Cluster study about the transfer of oil & gas expertise into the renewable energy sector.

Skills and training

More engineers and technicians will be needed to build and maintain the offshore wind farms under planning or construction. The report says market forces should be allowed to even out levels of remuneration.

Standards

Existing oil and gas standards should be adopted by the renewable energy sector before developing new ones, AREG and EEEGR say.

The oil and gas industry say there are many good standards available under ISO and APO that could be adopted by the offshore wind industry.

Technology

The availability of offshore construction equipment is going to be “extremely limited” because offshore wind is competing for resources with offshore oil and gas. As a result, the availability of equipment such as capital plant, ships, cranes, pile hammers may well limit the rate at which offshore wind farms can be constructed, they warn.

A lot of the technology used in the construction of offshore wind farms – particularly in deeper water (>25 m) – involves the direct application of techniques and equipment used in offshore oil and gas.

The POWER (Pushing Offshore Wind Energy Regions) Cluster study involves 18 partners from 6 European countries - Germany, the UK, Denmark, The Netherlands, Norway and Sweden - and aims to show how European co-operation to deliver offshore wind energy could lead to the North Sea becoming a global centre of excellence. The study is being carried out through a collaborative project between Natural Power and Ian Edwards of Aberdeenshire-based consultant Sunflower Blue.

Morag McCorkindale, AREG’s chief operating officer, said the study was already beginning to show a clear indication for concerted action: “The UK’s deep-rooted upstream oil and gas expertise puts it at a considerable advantage to harness the renewables market because it has the infrastructure, transferable skills, research and development and all-important know-how. Many oil and gas mechanisms such as recognised codes of practice, sharing of information and supply chain management are also transferable.

“It is vital that we capitalise on this expertise and build as effective a supply chain in renewables as we have in oil and gas. Training a new generation is also crucial to meeting the growing needs of the offshore wind sector, particularly as the industry inherently ramps up for the activity in deeper levels of water.

“Round 3 further highlights the need for concerted action and for a significant effort to deliver the ambitious Round 3 targets. While the contracting and commissioning mechanisms for Round 3 are not yet clear in any detail, the scale of the opportunity is clear and simple – up to £100 billion over the next decade.”

John Best, chief executive of EEEGR, added: “The study reinforces the need for both industries to work together to consolidate the industry’s expertise and capabilities.

“While a lot of the subject matter in the Power Cluster study may seem common sense, we want to ensure that this becomes common practice as opposed to people losing focus and reinventing the wheel. By honing in on areas requiring development and resources, the sector will progress faster and proficiently.”

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Other marine energy and hydropower  •  Wave and tidal energy  •  Wind power

 

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