Offshore renewable energy leaders are challenging East coast companies to come up with innovative underwater engineering solutions to support the UK’s growing offshore wind sector.
The first of a series of workshops tackling subsea engineering issues – ranging from corrosion and tidal scour at turbine towers to keeping seals away from piling work – will be held on Wednesday May 3rd at the Lowestoft base of renewables innovation centre OrbisEnergy.
With support from the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, the UK’s flagship technology innovation and research centre for offshore renewables, organisers are keen to get input and ideas from companies and encourage diversification into the growing and lucrative offshore renewables market.
They are throwing down the gauntlet to businesses across England, including energy hubs such as the North East and Humberside.
They can be companies already in renewables but also those in oil & gas and other sectors with transferable engineering and technical skills.
The day is the first of a series of workshops over the next two years which will cover a range of engineering challenges facing offshore wind, including operations and maintenance, materials and electrical infrastructure.
OrbisEnergy’s business development lead Johnathan Reynolds said: “The challenges have been identified by people in the offshore industry – so there is a proven need and demand for solutions which helps with taking ideas to market.
“The offshore wind energy sector has faced some of these problems in its early phases, but we are now moving from niche industry to major industrialisation with the latest wind farms – and while the turbines look similar the technology has changed tremendously.
“This region – and other areas – have strong histories and experience in oil and gas subsea engineering over 50 years, which can help wind energy tackle these issues as it moves forward.”
The workshop runs from 9.30am to 3.30pm with a range of expert speakers and sessions to talk through ideas in work groups.
The workshops are being run by SCORE, which offers grants and business support to develop ideas, and are supported by the Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Network and ORE Catapult.
Speakers include ORE Catapult senior innovation manager Andy Macdonald, who will outline the challenges, and SCORE project manager Rob Bush who will explain the support, including grants, it can offer to small and medium-sized companies with ideas to improve efficiency and cost savings in the offshore renewable energy sector.
Mr Macdonald said: “The aim of the challenges that will be presented at the workshop 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, and will have been faced by related subsea sectors. We’ve teamed up with SCORE and the KTN to highlight these market opportunities and ensure that East coast companies can take advantage of them as quickly as possible.”
Mr Bush added: “SCORE is ideally placed to facilitate these sessions because we can also help turn ideas into commercial opportunities through our grants and business support.”
A previous SCORE grant was given to Scour Prevention Systems’ innovative use of recycled car tyres as a low-cost solution for sediment loss around turbine monopoles and cabling.
The Supply Chain Innovation for Offshore Renewable Energy (SCORE) programme is a £6m scheme part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). It is led by the Nwes enterprise agency, through delivery partnership with ORE Catapult and energy sector consultants Nautilus Associates.
It is open to companies with fewer than 250 employees and assets of less than 50 million euros. Grants range from £2,000 to £50,000. Applicants can be based anywhere in England, but the impact of their work must benefit the renewables industry in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire.