The reality of harnessing plentiful energy from offshore wind has until now seemed far out to sea.
But speaking at the European Future Energy Forum in London, Phil de Villiers of the Carbon Trust thinks the work being done is bringing us much closer to a usable renewable: “In order to make sure that all the projects happen in the UK and in Europe we need to make sure that the costs are driven down. Offshore wind is essential for the UK. It’s a big challenge but it’s a big opportunity.”
The scope of the market for offshore wind was thoroughly reiterated by some of those at the forum. Adrian Fox, supply chain manager of the Crown Estate, thought that innovation would be amplified by the shipbuilding industry:
“Innovation and new ideas is potentially what the shipbuilding industry could bring. It’s time to do that in the long term. I do think there’s a key role for the shipbuilding industry.”
This in turn will be expanded, said Martin Bilhardt, chief executive of PNE Wind, through the inevitable demand: “There is demand for ships. There aren’t enough for the near future but there’s capacity for more, the markets will regulate that, so we are not fearing that there won’t be the ships to build our wind farms”
Steve Sawyer, secretary-general of the Global Wind Energy Council, added: “People are not going to invest in building ships unless they see a five, ten, fifteen year commitment by governments. We are starting to see this in Europe and it’s stimulating investment.”
The issue of cost is however standing in the way of wind development. Steve Sawyer added: “In economic terms, it would make much, much more sense for the UK to expand onshore. I think everyone knows that but nobody wants to talk about it.”
In the Comprehensive Spending Review, George Osbourne announced a £200m boost to offshore wind technology. RenewableUK chief executive Maria McCaffery said: “Retaining the Ports Fund will give the industry a huge boost and establish the UK as a major force in renewable energy manufacturing. Signals from government are positive that the £60m will be retained as part of the £200m for the development of low carbon technologies including offshore wind technology and manufacturing at ports sites.”