Offshore wind operations and maintenance centre of excellence go-ahead

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 4 Oct 2017

A new £2 million collaboration between the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult and the University of Hull will see the launch of an offshore wind operations and maintenance centre of excellence in the region.  

The five-year partnership will see a series of research and innovation projects developed to improve the way that offshore wind farms are operated and maintained, building on the Humber’s energy heritage, location and experience of servicing UK offshore wind farms.

Grimsby is home to more than 1GW of offshore wind installed capacity, with more than 3GW confirmed for the coming years as at least eight wind farms will be controlled from the port.  The biggest investor in offshore wind, Dong Energy, has declared it the East Coast Hub for the company.

Chris Hill, ORE Catapult’s operational performance director, said: “Operations and maintenance activities make up almost a quarter of the lifetime costs of an offshore wind farm, and provide a huge opportunity for UK companies to supply their products and services. 

“The East Coast, and particularly the Humber Estuary, has extensive experience of servicing offshore wind farms and that experience is invaluable as we look to build expertise and a local supply chain, establishing the region as a real centre of excellence that can service UK offshore wind farms as well exporting to the fast growing international market.”

ORE Catapult is the UK’s flagship technology innovation and research centre for advancing wind, wave and tidal energy.

Initially to be worked up in Hull, it is understood this could form part of a wider plan to develop higher education and research and development provision in Grimsby, allied to the specific sector of the industry that has transformed the first port on the Humber.

A stronger academic presence forms part of the Greater Grimsby Project proposition currently with Government, with North East Lincolnshire Council's ambition to be the low carbon capital of the UK, published this summer, listing as one of five scenarios an "O&M Innovation Hub in Grimsby town centre to provide a national focus for research and development and innovation activity to support offshore wind O&M activities." 

Dr David Richards, pro vice chancellor for research and enterprise for the University of Hull, added: “This collaboration between the University and ORE Catapult is a step change for the Energy Estuary and the UK’s offshore wind industry as a whole. The recent dramatic drop in the price of electricity generation from offshore wind, which has halved in two years, has demonstrated that the industry is a core part of the country’s energy mix. Research and innovation in operations and maintenance is essential to maintaining the UK’s position as a global leader in offshore wind and this new centre of excellence will by key to establishing an anchor for the industry as a whole.”

As reported, Dong Energy has set a new low price for electricity generation from offshore wind, gaining subsidy support for Hornsea Project Two at £54.50.  

University researchers will work alongside the Catapult’s innovation team. Its first task will be to engage with industry and the supply chain to develop a series of feasibility studies and define a roadmap for O&M research and development.

Matthew Wright, Dong Energy’s UK managing director, said: “We are committed to the Humber region and are currently expanding our operations and maintenance base in Grimsby. Our recent decision to go ahead with Hornsea Project Two will bring further economic growth to the area. This project will be built at the lowest cost ever for a UK offshore wind farm, and this dramatic reduction in costs is thanks to close collaboration between industry, academia and governments.

“This centre of excellence is another example of collaborative working to further lower the cost of offshore wind and we are looking forward to seeing the innovations that will come as a result.”

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