Blasting offshore wind

Posted on 4 Feb 2015 by Jonny Williamson

2014 saw a number of major investments into the UK offshore wind sector, a sign that the marketplace is actually starting to realise its potential. GROW:OffshoreWind has spent the past 12 months helping the supply chain take advantage of the £multi-billion opportunity.

GROW OffshoreWind delivers £7m boost to the offshore wind sector

Manufacturers looking to take advantage of the growth in the offshore wind market have received £7m of business support and capital funding.

Bosses at the GROW:OffshoreWind service made the announcement at a supplier event to promote the £1.5bn Dudgeon Wind Farm project in Norfolk and immediately pointed to further investment in Hornsea as a sign that the sector is finally maturing.

More than 900 companies have benefited from the assistance to date, which has helped firms bring new innovations to market, purchase state-of-the-art machinery, explore crucial and increase their supply competitiveness and capability.

The grants have also been used to facilitate relocation to new purpose built premise, an important feature for suppliers looking to increase capacity and manufacture larger components than they’re normally used to.

More than 900 companies have benefited from GROW:OffshoreWind assistance to date.
More than 900 companies have benefited from GROW:OffshoreWind assistance to date.

“When we launched at the end of 2013 we had the single aim of getting more manufacturers and technology providers in a position where they could effectively supply into offshore wind,” explained Dominic Brown, head of GROW:OffshoreWind.

“We feel we are well on the way to achieving this, providing strategic advice and access to funding for over 900 companies, ranging from steel fabricators and composite specialists, to blade tip innovators and toughened glass specialists.”

He continued: “Early estimates suggest that the £7m we have allocated will safeguard in excess of 1150 jobs and, importantly, could create nearly 2500 new ones.”

GROW:OffshoreWind, a Regional Growth Fund programme, is delivered by Grant Thornton and partners the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), Renewable UK and the University of Sheffield.

Working closely with the Government and industry leaders, the service has been instrumental in raising the profile of offshore wind and how suppliers can tap into £bn of opportunities slowly coming to fruition in and around the UK’s coasts.

Eight dedicated GROW specialists have been working with companies on the ground, whilst senior officials have been cultivating relationships with Tier 1s and the big contractors responsible for delivering the wind farms.

Dominic continued: “Another focus has been around building links with the organisations responsible for developing the supply chains.

Wind turbines
GROW:OffshoreWind has been instrumental in raising the profile of offshore wind.

“We are starting to see a noticeable change in Developers and Tier 1s engaging with SMEs. There seems to be a genuine commitment for local supply and, as a result, we are now putting on events that are bringing suppliers in direct contact with tier 1s (A2Sea, Carillion and Sif Group for example) and operators, such as Statoil and Siemens.

With recent investment being seen in East Yorkshire and off the Norfolk Coast and further developments planned, the appetite to be involved has definitely grown.”

“It has taken a while for the potential to turn into reality and suppliers need to work hard to prove themselves. However, with new developments planned and recent investment being seen in East Yorkshire and off the Norfolk Coast, the appetite to be involved has definitely grown.”

The Manufacturer looks at how two small manufacturers have tapped into GROW support to boost their ability to supply into offshore wind:

Blade runner

Blade Dynamics has been awarded one of the largest ever grants from the GROW:OffshoreWind service to help it develop a new solution to improve wind turbine performance.

Image L to R Richard Ousey, Dominic Brown (both GROWOffshoreWind) with Theo Botha (Blade Dynamics).
Image L to R Richard Ousey, Dominic Brown (both GROWOffshoreWind) with Theo Botha (Blade Dynamics).

The Southampton-based firm has secured £500,000 grant under the Process Technology Innovation Fund to help it bring its ‘Advanced Blade Tip’ development project to fruition.

Blade Dynamics has created a new and highly innovative ‘Advanced Blade Tip’, which improves the critical outer third of a wind turbine blade. This high performance tip is designed to integrate, creating a ‘hybrid blade’ that upgrades performance whilst using existing manufacturing infrastructure.

The ‘tip’ features built-in leading edge erosion protection, has a highly accurate aerodynamic profile to enhance energy generation, is lightweight to reduce turbine loads and to allow blades to be extended in length.

The Advanced Blade Tip, which also features an innovative lightning protection system, enhances both the performance of offshore wind turbines, increasing Annual Energy Production (AEP), and reduces costs incurred through expensive downtime due to blade deterioration and the current need for frequent maintenance.

The project will refine, demonstrate and test the manufacturing technologies used in the tip solution, as well as optimise the design of the interface between the tip and the rest of the blade.

Theo Botha, Blade Dynamics co-founder, said: “This is an exciting new technology development that can substantially reduce the long term cost of energy from offshore wind turbines and the company is delighted to be supported by GROW:OffshoreWind in this work.

“The project is a great example of funding being provided for technologies that can have a substantial positive impact on the British economy and environment by nurturing sustainable, knowledge-based, domestic manufacturing in the vitally important offshore wind energy sector.

“The outer portion of a blade produces most of the energy and the technology allows these high value blade tips to be exported from the UK and deployed on offshore wind turbines globally as well as in the domestic market.”

GROW:OffshoreWind’s Steve Sharp added his support: “We are delighted to support Blade Dynamics in making these important technology innovations for offshore wind turbine blades.

“This is a significant project and one of a number now supported by GROW to assist with supply chain development and address the cost challenges faced by the industry.  We look forward to its successful completion and to many more like it in the future.”

W: T: @bladedynamics

North West pioneers technology breakthrough

A leading Lancashire subsea connector specialist has been awarded £130,000 of funding to help pioneer a new offshore wind breakthrough.

First Subsea has secured the Process Technology Innovation award from the Government’s GROW:OffshoreWind service and will now be able to develop a monopile interface connector and hang off cable connector for wind farms and top tension mooring connector for floating wind turbines.

First Subsea cable connector technology
First Subsea’s cable connector technology.

John Shaw, managing director, commented: “As the offshore wind industry strives to reduce turbine deployment costs, our connector is a major breakthrough in facilitating quicker and safer installations.”

He continued: “The GROW:OffshoreWind award will allow us to develop our engineering and production teams and produce trial connectors to undertake full scale testing in collaboration with the offshore wind industry.

“It places the UK at the forefront of this type of technology and gives us a great opportunity to grow the business.”

The most labour intensive and time-consuming element of installing power cable into an Offshore Wind monopile is its connection and termination.

First Subsea’s patented connection systems are designed to streamline the cable installation process with its combination of monopile interface connector (MIC) and hang off cable connector (HOC) for both traditional and pre-stripped cable.

The MIC secures the cable’s monopile connection, while the HOC holds the cable in position on the hang-off deck ready for connection.

In addition to significant installation time savings offshore, they will provide robust and foolproof connections that can be readily adapted for a range of offshore wind turbines and cable protection systems.

Offshore wind mooring and tensioning connector

Another key part of the GROW support focuses on the development of a patented mooring and top tension connector for the deployment of wind farms further offshore – at water depths in excess of 80m.

The top tension connector will allow installation contractors to tension a floating turbine’s mooring lines without the need for divers, ROVs and specialist surface vessels. It uses a simple push and grip technology to connect mooring lines to a range of floating wind turbine platforms.

John Shaw continued: “This is a particularly exciting development – new mooring technologies will be key to the success of deploying floating wind farms in deeper waters.

The mooring and tensioning connector is designed to withstand the kinds of dynamic forces likely to be experienced in the high sea states needed for power generation.”

W: T: @firstsubsea

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