Scottish offshore wind energy could be Britain’s ‘new oil boom’

Andrew Tipping
Andrew Tipping

The Glasgow-based Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult (OREC) has called for companies operating in the N. Sea oil and gas industry to look for new commercial opportunities in offshore wind.

Scotland has the biggest offshore wind resources – about 25% – in Europe and, according to an OREC manager:

“The emergence of offshore renewables could be Britain’s new oil boom – the potential is absolutely huge.”

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 £210 billion in the coming decade, according to  Andrew Tipping, the Commercialisation Manager at OREC.

However, the eponymous UK oil and gas industry trade association is – by definition – unable to highlight renewable energy business opportunities, while the leadership of renewable energy trade bodies in Scotland are ‘ideologically’ opposed to fraternising with their hydro-carbon-based cousins.

But – speaking in Aberdeen where the oil and gas industry struggles to cope with lower oil prices and weakening demand – Tipping urged companies to diversify and take an early lead in the global renewables revolution.

He said: “Aberdeen, and the UK as a whole, has extensive experience in oil and gas and the skills base, both in exploration and drilling, which 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.”

The National Subsea Research Institute Initiative is also encouraging companies to diversify into offshore renewables by – for example – improving maintenance techniques and finding better foundation fixings for wind and tidal turbines, to finding cost-effective cable surveying and ice-reduction coatings.

Tipping added: “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.”

Companies which have recently moved into offshore renewables include Aberdeen-based offshore engineering provider, W3G Marine Ltd.

Predominantly working in offshore oil and gas, the company met with OREC 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.

“This has opened up opportunities for us to diversify our product offering and explore new markets,” said John Giles, Director of W3G Marine Ltd.

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