Ambitions for Dogger Bank windfarms matched by North East England’s innovative supply chain cluster
“The importance of Dogger Bank Wind Farm to the UK cannot be underestimated. Not only will it make a significant contribution to our low carbon economy and the journey to net zero, but it will also provide a practical demonstration of game-changing technologies and the ingenuity of our industry,” Tony Quinn, new Energi Coast Chair
I believe it is one of the most ambitious power generation projects the UK has ever undertaken, sharing comparisons with developments such as the Hinkley Point and Drax power station in relation to their size, complexity, and impact on Britain’s energy generation capabilities.
As an industry we are pushing boundaries with the developments in the North Sea. Dogger Bank and Sofia Offshore Wind Farms are both further out to sea than any other previous developments and will, combined, have a generating capacity of 5GW.
This is informing the need for cutting edge technology to support their design, manufacture, installation and operations & maintenance, which presents considerable opportunities for the UK offshore wind supply chain.
The UK Government commitment to offshore wind is to have 40GW installed capacity by 2030. For suppliers that have been used to the cyclical nature of the oil & gas sector, which are transitioning into offshore renewables, this pipeline of projects demonstrates that there is sustainability in the sector.
This is further evident in the confidence of investors keen to support the net zero agenda, with Dogger Bank Wind Farm project partners SSE Renewables and Equinor securing a landmark £5.5bn debt financing deal for the windfarm project.
They have subsequently welcomed Eni as a new partner, with the Italian energy group entering the Northern European offshore wind market for the first time through its acquisition of a 20% stake in Dogger Bank A and B.
At a time when other industries are contracting as a result of the pandemic, this confidence in the offshore wind sector is phenomenal and illustrates how innovation in offshore renewables is blazing a trail in the UK’s green recovery.
North East England
For North East England, these developments are also having a significant impact on the region’s supply chain. Having market demand in close proximity is an important ingredient for any cluster; it provides the opportunities to not only serve nearby projects, but also develop game-changing technologies and expertise, which can be exported globally.
The region has an abundance of innovative companies that have grown up in the ‘offshore energy’ space. We have the most progressive and forward-thinking cluster of companies in the country, particularly in subsea engineering, which has enabled the region to play an instrumental role in the development and growth of offshore wind since its inception.
The ability to continually innovate gives a competitive advantage and will help sustain North East England’s world leading position.
Having been in the power generation industry for more than 40 years, personally, this is one of the most exciting times to be involved in the sector. Becoming chair of Energi Coast is a real privilege and I am proud to represent such an outstanding cluster of organisations, which places innovation at its heart.
We are committed to delivering long-term value for the region through a successful collaboration between public sector bodies such as the two Local Enterprise Partnerships, supply chain companies, academia and the six ports.
It is this willingness to collaborate that defines the strength of the cluster. All of these organisations, working for the collective benefit, will drive our region and the sector forward.
Energi Coast plays an important role in helping to combine the capabilities of the region and a constructive forum to address challenges and present opportunities creating an environment of collaboration.
In this regard the involvement of the developers, Equinor, SSE Renewables and RWE Renewables, is essential allowing cluster companies to understand the ultimate customer’s challenges and develop solutions that meet the needs of their projects.
Inward investment from major players in the wind industry, is leading accelerated development of the cluster.
The region has seen a flurry of activity and investments in the past couple of years as the development of the Dogger Bank zone, which includes RWE’s £1.3bn investment in its largest offshore project, the 1.4GW Sofia Offshore Wind Farm, gains pace, leading to the creation of a larger and more sustainable supply chain.
Of real significance is GE Renewable Energy’s commitment to build a blade manufacturing facility at the Teesside freeport, creating opportunities to broaden the spectrum of companies that can participate in the industry.
Dogger Bank Wind Farm will also prove to be a catalyst for future innovation in North East England. As a region we have a rich Research & Development capability, highlighted by EDF Renewables decision to build a floating offshore wind demonstrator in Blyth. Not only will this showcase the next generation of offshore wind technology but will also facilitate the evolution of next-generation operations & maintenance technologies, including remotely operated and autonomous vehicles.
The more we can innovate to address the challenges of building and operating windfarms on Dogger Bank, the greater opportunity we must anchor expertise here in North East England developing capabilities that are highly exportable and can be utilised on other ambitious projects around the world.
Energi Coast Chair and Test & Validation Director, ORE Catapult
NOF & Energi Coast