The UK government is to make £160m (€175m) available to upgrade ports and infrastructure for developing offshore wind farms. The aim is to boost the UK’s wind power from 30GW to 40GW by 2030.
The move will benefit technology companies such as Schneider Electric, Orsted, MHI Vestas and Siemens as it shifts the way power is stored. This also raises issues for software technologies to manage the energy grid.
The UK already has the largest installed capacity of offshore wind in the world, with around 10GW in operation off its coasts. However the investment is particularly focussed on floating offshore wind energy to deliver 1GW by 2030. While this is a small fraction of the overall target, it is 15 times the current volumes worldwide.
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This will allow wind farms to be built further out to sea in deeper waters, but brings significant technology challenges for European cable companies such as Nexans and Prysmian to deliver the energy back to the mainland. As an alternative Siemens is looking at generating hydrogen with the power to store the energy.
“This is an ambitious announcement by the government. Offshore wind with hydrogen energy storage can provide reliable clean energy and will be vital to achieving net zero. The UK’s unique position means we can be at the forefront of developing deeper sea waters and the supply chain will welcome the commitment from Government in this innovative area,” said Steve Scrimshaw, Vice President, Siemens Energy UK&I.
“We welcome today’s announcement from the government which will unlock huge opportunities for world class UK supply chain companies, both domestically and overseas, to market the skills and innovative technologies that have been fostered in the UK offshore wind industry,” said Duncan Clark, Head of UK Region for Danish turbine supplier Ørsted.
“Offshore wind is the most cost effective way to achieve the UK’s net zero ambitions and delivering 40 GW of offshore wind by 2030 is an essential part of this roadmap. This is a challenging target but achievable if Government and the industry continue to work together to accelerate deployment and build out the UK project pipeline as quickly as possible, regenerating coastal communities while expediting our progress to a more sustainable, low-carbon future,” he said.
“Green technologies hold huge potential to enhance the skills, know-how, and production capabilities across the UK, while also supporting our collective progress towards net zero emissions with high-quality products and technologies developed here in the UK,” said Mike Hughes, Zone President, Schneider Electric UK & Ireland.
“At ACT Blade, we strive to support wind energy development by contributing to lower its cost,” said Sabrina Malpede, managing director of ACT Blade in Edinburgh, Scotland. “We hope the Build Back Greener plan includes support for innovative technologies and its commercialization, as well as promote policies for a real clean energy transition.”
The company tested its first lightweight composite wind turbine blade earlier this year.
However industrial software expert, COPA-DATA has warned that the plans must not overlook critical investments in software.
“The UK’s energy grid was not designed to handle volatile renewable energy sources,” said Garry Forfar, energy industry expert at COPA-DATA UK. “Investing £160 million into wind power could yield incredible results, but only if the software controlling the equipment is robust. As the country erects new turbines and builds physical infrastructure, the Government must pay equally close attention to the technology required to control and monitor the grid.
“Unlike fossil fuels, renewable energy sources do not generate energy at a predictable level, so they can create challenges for balancing supply and demand,” he said. “For instance, periods of low renewable generation can result in exploitative price increases, while unexpected power surges can result in blackouts if excess energy is not stored appropriately. To establish the UK as a world leader in renewable power, deploying the correct software is essential.”
“Transforming Britain’s energy network into a fully functioning smart grid is a colossal task dependent on investment in technology. The Government’s £160 million investment in this scheme could provide the push Britain needs to become a leader in renewable power — providing software isn’t overlooked,” he said.
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