Building a solid base in offshore engineering is about tackling the procurement challenges, says Will Gard
This column last addressed the wide and varied challenges relating to off shore wind in September last year, with a focus on health & safety. This time we turn to newly emerging challenges surrounding the procurement of foundation solutions for off shore wind and marine tidal structures.
As the 40GW of sites being brought forward as part of Round 3 gather momentum, developers are keenly focused on identifying the right suppliers and expertise to tackle the very diff erent challenges associated with wind power infrastructure at locations yet further out to sea. The seabed conditions, water depths and environmental conditions that prevail at these locations, coupled with signifi cant cost pressures are accelerating the need for innovation.
A range of foundation solutions has been created to tackle these challenges. Monopile, multiple pile, jacket and hybrid structures all have their place in the relevant setting and more recently we have seen signifi cant innovation and focus on gravity-based foundations too.
What is right for one project is not necessarily right for another
The latter technology in particular has significant benefits in relation to the highly prevalent issue of consenting. The argument goes that by using a solution that can be built on-shore then “sunk” into place using ballast weights, some of the common environmental issues of construction at sea - including noise and vibration which can cause distress to sea life - can be avoided. Yet, some issues are still common to them all, like the need to control scouring around the foundations after installation.
However, what is right for one project is not necessarily right for another, putting a premium on those advisers who can assist the developer up front by helping to develop cost-eff ective foundation solutions that are designed with economy and consenting issues in mind.
We are seeing the dynamics of the procurement process for Round 3 off shore and marine tidal projects from a wide range of viewpoints. This includes assisting developers and contractors in negotiations around the need to procure early specialist design input, but retain a reasonable level of competition for any future installation entrants. Naturally, developers are reluctant to relinquish the right to competition by agreeing exclusivity before solutions and prices are identified.
The aim is to ensure that for both marine tidal and off shore wind projects “strong foundations” are laid for the procurement process itself, allowing projects to progress smoothly in what is untried and untested territory for the renewables sector.
Will Gard is a chartered civil engineer and partner at Burges Salmon LLP