As offshore wind goes from strength to strength in Europe, some might believe that all Asia needs to do is copy what the industry did there and the region can emulate, or even surpass, that success. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that.

The technical challenges developers will face are a key reason why Asia can’t simply replicate Europe’s offshore wind journey. Europe does not have typhoons, high seismicity, deep faulting, thick soft marine deposits, and hard volcanic and metamorphic sedimentary rock seabeds. Asia does.

Overcoming these challenges will require new methods of analysis and stronger structures. For example, monopiles are used for 90% of European developments but they may not always be suitable in Asia. Many of the most promising areas in Asia do not have the competent seabed stratum required for hammering or vibrating monopiles into place.

So, some situations may require alternative foundation systems – including piled jackets, suction buckets or even self-installing gravity-based structures. Requiring no piles and no specialised installation vessels, gravity-based structures maximise the use of both local labour and materials. They could be a good option for many locations in Asia.

The limited availability of shallow water depths less than 50 metres means that commercial scale floating systems could develop rapidly, especially in the waters around Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

Asia could use its experience – honed in areas such as automotive manufacturing – of producing technology cheaply and efficiently on a commercial scale to surpass Europe in floating offshore wind.

Whatever the specific technical solution, local expertise will be key to catering for local factors. At Arup, we’re seeing clients across Asia looking for sophisticated engineering skills for their offshore wind projects.

Asia can have the best of both worlds.

In Europe, the open market meant local consultants, designers and contractors developed supply chains through organic growth to service the work locally. Asia can have the best of both worlds; involving experienced European consultants and contractors is enabling them to rapidly develop their own skills through technology transfer.

Taiwan is successfully following this approach, having encouraged many established European contractors to join its auctions independently. By compelling these contractors to engage with local manufacturers and suppliers, it hopes to establish a local supply chain to serve both the Taiwanese markets and the rest of Asia.

Japan and Korea have well established contracting bases capable of tackling large-scale infrastructure projects. However, because they lack experience in offshore wind, these local groups have also formed alliances with established European contractors to learn quickly and are now preparing for the initial auctions.

For Japan’s first large-scale commercial offshore wind farm close to the Akita and Noshiro Ports, Arup’s local and international teams worked successfully with local EPC contractors and the local regulators, ClassNK, to develop designs. Expertise on the ground has proved vital in steering the project through – the first to be approved by the local statutory checking authority in Japan –and in establishing an accepted design process for the future.

In procurement, Asia has learnt from, and improved on, the European approach. Taiwan, Japan and Korea have all moved more rapidly than Europe did from feed-in tariff schemes to an auction process or renewable energy certification system. This will encourage more competitive supply chains.

With the market progressing rapidly, we’ve invested in building our local capability – because we believe that combining the best of European experience with local expertise is the right approach to unlock opportunities in an Asian market that is expected to reach 100GW of installed capacity by 2030.

  • Peter Thompson is East Asia energy leader for Arup