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Workshop seeks solutions to subsea challenges in offshore wind industry

Tue 18 Apr 2017 by David Foxwell

Workshop seeks solutions to subsea challenges in offshore wind industry
The workshop will be used to highlight innovative solutions to subsea challenges in the offshore wind sector

Offshore renewable energy leaders are challenging companies on the east coast of the UK to come up with innovative underwater engineering solutions to support the UK’s growing offshore wind sector.

A workshop tackling subsea engineering issues – ranging from corrosion and tidal scour at turbine towers to keeping seals away from piling work – will be held on 3 May at the Lowestoft base of renewables innovation centre OrbisEnergy.

With support from the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, the UK’s flagship technology innovation and research centre for offshore renewables, organisers are keen to get input and ideas from companies and encourage diversification into the growing and lucrative offshore renewables market. They can be companies already in renewables but also those in the offshore oil and gas and other sectors with transferable engineering and technical skills.

The day is the first of a series of workshops over the next two years which will cover a range of engineering challenges facing offshore wind, including operations and maintenance, materials and electrical infrastructure.

OrbisEnergy’s business development lead Johnathan Reynolds said: “The challenges have been identified by people in the offshore industry – so there is a proven need and demand for solutions which helps with taking ideas to market. The offshore wind energy sector has faced some of these problems in its early phases, but we are now moving from niche industry to major industrialisation with the latest windfarms – and while the turbines look similar the technology has changed tremendously. This region – and other areas – has strong histories and experience in oil and gas subsea engineering over 50 years, which can help wind energy tackle these issues as it moves forward.”

The workshop runs from 9.30am to 3.30pm with a range of expert speakers and sessions to talk through ideas in work groups. It is being run by SCORE, which offers grants and business support to develop ideas, and is supported by the Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Network and ORE Catapult. Speakers include ORE Catapult senior innovation manager Andy Macdonald, who will outline the challenges, and SCORE project manager Rob Bush who will explain the support, including grants, it can offer to small and medium-sized companies with ideas to improve efficiency and cost savings in the offshore renewable energy sector.

Mr Macdonald said: “The aim of the challenges that will be presented at the workshop is two-fold, to bring down the overall cost of offshore renewable technology, and to drive growth for UK companies. Many of the challenges we’re presenting today are not unique to offshore renewables, and will have been faced by related subsea sectors. We’ve teamed up with SCORE and the KTN to highlight these market opportunities and ensure that east coast companies can take advantage of them as quickly as possible.” 

A previous SCORE grant was given to Scour Prevention Systems’ innovative use of recycled car tyres as a low-cost solution for sediment loss around turbine monopiles and cabling. SCORE is also currently running a series of roadshows touring the region where local companies can chat to SCORE staff about the grants and meet businesses that have benefited from the scheme. The remaining sessions are:  20 April, Council Chamber, Weeley, Harwich; 27 April, Beacon Innovation Centre, Gorleston; 4 May, Old Court House, Thurrock; 11 May, St John’s Innovation Centre, Cambridge; 18 May, OrbisEnergy, Lowestoft.