UK offshore wind manufacturing opportunity ‘hanging in the balance’

The UK has a "once-in-a-generation" chance to attract major companies to build factories that will supply the fast-growing offshore wind energy sector, according to a report published today.

However, the study, published by the wind power association RenewableUK and The Crown Estate, also warns that unless the UK seizes this unprecedented opportunity, the manufacturing advantage will be lost to its European competitors.

The study, Building an Industry, quantifies how many wind turbine factories and other manufacturing facilities (blades, cables and foundations) will be needed to fulfill the increase in demand up to 2020 to supply the UK and European offshore wind energy sector.

Combined, the UK and Europe is expected to install 36 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind by the end of the decade and the report shows that to install this, Europe will need 64 major manufacturing facilities.

Slightly more than a third of these are already operational, and plans for a further third have been announced.

However, according to the report, less than a quarter of these facilities are in the UK, even though the UK is planning to build half of Europe’s offshore wind farm capacity between now and 2020.

RenewableUK’s chief executive, Maria McCaffery said: “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. If we don’t seize it, the large scale offshore wind supply chain factories of the future, making the enormous blades, towers and foundations that we’ll need to retain the UK’s global lead in offshore wind, will be sited elsewhere. The potential to create tens of thousands of green-collar manufacturing jobs hangs in the balance.”

The report also states that by 2030, the UK offshore wind sector will need as many as seven turbine tower factories, seven blade factories, seven nacelle factories, six factories to build foundations, six factories to build offshore substations and six cable factories.

The sector will also require more than 20 seagoing vessels to install offshore turbines, and a further 230 vessels to carry workers to and from the turbines once they are operational.

Addressing the wind industry for the first time the Energy Minister Michael Fallon said: “Offshore wind is a British success story. We already have more installed offshore wind than anywhere else in the world, and this brings enormous economic benefit to our shores, supporting thousands of skilled jobs. This report sets out the enormous potential of this dynamic industry, which makes a crucial contribution to our clean energy mix.”

Fallon also announced today the creation of an Offshore Wind Investment Organisation (OWIO) to boost levels of inward investment and to further stimulate jobs in the UK offshore wind industry, alongside Government support for three offshore wind innovation projects.

He said: “This will be an important part of our industrial strategy for the sector later this year, and we are creating the Offshore Wind Investment Organisation to drive that activity.

“We already have more installed offshore wind than anywhere else in the world, and this brings enormous economic benefit to our shores, supporting thousands of skilled jobs.”

“Through the formation of this industry-led partnership and through our support for innovation projects, we will boost the positive benefits that the offshore wind sector can bring to the UK economy,” added Fallon.

Conor McGlone

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