Government needs to provide certainty in the offshore wind sector to deliver value.
The recent “progress” from government in creating clarity for investment in offshore wind may provide certainty in the long term, but without a long term pipeline of construction, the supply chain is hindered in realising potential cost reductions.
Cost reductions need to be achieved to meet the demands of the diminishing strike price and to provide UK consumers with a long term supply of affordable, local, low carbon energy.
These efficiencies are achievable, and benefits can be gained from applying established and efficient working practices, as well as innovation in technology.
The confidence gained in the market will reduce perceived risks and hence the cost of finance.
Turbine manufacturers are already developing larger turbines with increased generation potential, but these are larger, heavier and will have an impact on tower and foundation requirements.
Also, as the UK maximises its leadership opportunity in offshore wind, new development zones are increasingly further offshore. The greater transportation and installation depths for the structures create an upward pressure
Concrete gravity bases provide the robustness and performance required to meet engineering demands placed on foundation solutions, and also represent a step change in technology that can deliver a cost saving against alternatives.
Concrete gravity bases will also meet the drivers for UK content, skills and competition.
Current technology for foundations, monopiles, is a mainly automated process using imported raw materials, limiting job creation associated with a technology already at the limits of its performance capabilities.
For concrete, the raw materials can be UK sourced, and production provides opportunities for jobs in design and construction, as well as those related to the ports’ infrastructure, transportation and installation processes.
With internationally renowned companies providing concrete gravity solutions for developers, this will also attract investment into the UK.
A typical manufacturing facility producing 50 bases per year will generate 500 to 600 jobs directly at the facility.
The extraction and delivery of the concrete constituents will generate a further 100 UK jobs.
However, these advantages are only unlocked by economies of scale.
Economies of scale are delivered from a construction pipeline of projects and these rely on investment.
As the government framework for electricity market reform rolls out, with contracts for difference and supply chain plans, we get ever nearer to the growth in low carbon energy that would benefit the construction industry and UK consumers.
- Andrew Minson is executive director of MPA The Concrete Centre