UK offshore 'coming of age'

Britain is on course to break the 10GW barrier for offshore wind capacity by the end of the decade, according to two studies released for Global Offshore Wind 2014 in Glasgow.

UK seabed landlord The Crown Estate said the country is set to boost its capacity to at least 10GW by 2020 –equivalent to about 10% of national power demand.

The Offshore wind operational report 2014, released for Global Offshore Wind 2014 in Glasgow, said the UK offshore sector currently has 3.65GW in place and is on track to bring that up to almost 5GW by the end of 2015.

The Crown Estate said the "strong signal" sent by the UK energy bill had helped to reassure investors and allow Britain to cement its global leadership role.

Huub den Rooijen, head of offshore wind at The Crown Estate said there have been a number of significant milestones in 2014 for offshore wind including a total of £750m industry investment announced. “With around 1465 turbines in operation or under construction, and nearly 4GW in operation it is fair to say the industry is coming of age.”

Separate figures released today for the Glasgow event by organiser RenewableUK are more bullish, expecting at least 13GW by the end of the decade.

For its part, RenewableUK said the offshore industry is "here to stay" with development plans post 2020 starting to emerge. But it added that there is an increasing appetite for a trajectory for the UK industry out to 2030, underpinned by targets.

Further highlights from the Crown Estate's Offshore wind operational report 2014 report include:

* Generation from offshore wind reached an unprecedented 11.5TW last year. This equates to 3.3% of the UK’s electricity demand, or enough to power 2.7 million homes.

* In 2013 over 6,800 people were employed in the UK’s offshore wind sector – more than double since 2010.

* The trend of strong growth in UK offshore wind generation continued in 2013 with year-on-year growth of 53%.

* Four wind farms – London Array, Greater Gabbard, Sheringham Shoal and Thanet – accounted for half of all offshore production in 2013. The remaining 20 smaller wind farms provided the remaining 50%.

* London Array was the first offshore wind farm in the world to achieve an annual output of more than 2TWh in a single year, around 17% of the UK’s 2013 generation from offshore wind, despite not being fully commissioned until April 2013.

“The UK is the number one country in the world for offshore wind, supporting green jobs and growth as well as strengthening our energy security,” said UK energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey. “We have already attracted over £30bn worth of investment in renewable technologies since 2010.”

The Crown Estate is supporting a number of initiatives to help reduce the costs and risks associated with developing the UK’s offshore renewables sector.

As part of this effort it has undertaken a study, supported by DNV-GL, to explore one of the recommendations from the Offshore Wind Cost Reduction Taskforce on how the sector can better share knowledge, lessons learned and overall good practice.

That study, Sharing lessons learned and good practice in offshore transmission, reveals offshore transmission projects have suffered from, and been adversely impacted by, a range of issues across project life cycles – from consenting and early stage design through to front end engineering design, installation and operations & maintenance.

It says whilst not all projects have experienced the same issues, the evidence suggests most projects have been adversely impacted in some way, typically manifesting in either unexpected cost escalation or needing to undertake extra risk mitigation actions, or both.

“Root causes of these issues were varied and project-specific,” says the report.

“Given the volume of offshore wind capacity already connected and the expected future capacity, there is a valuable opportunity to better understand the challenges faced on offshore transmission projects."