East of England offshore wind is 'lynchpin' for UK renewables

4C Offshore

Eyes turned to the expanding east coast offshore wind mosaic when Boris Johnson declared he was putting a “big bet” on renewables and the UK would be the “Saudi Arabia of wind”.

The East of England is a pioneer and key player in offshore wind – its nimble businesses adapting half a century’s knowledge of working offshore to generate renewable energy alongside gas.

If the bedrock of the UK’s mission to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 is to have every home powered by wind by 2030, the East of England and its supply chain are its lynchpin.

For the prime minister’s pledge to “put wind in the sails of a green revolution” to happen, capacity must quadruple and the industry must support 60,000+ jobs across the UK, many in coastal communities.

It’s a mammoth challenge that the innovative companies in the east – some serving the global wind industry already – are approaching head-on to meet developers’ commitment to create at least 60% domestic content on new projects and continued support from UK businesses throughout their 30-year lifespans.

With 16 projects off the east coast expected to send clean electricity to the National Grid after 2030 and investment predicted to grow to £30 billion by 2040 compared to £43 billion for the rest of the UK, the potential is huge.

Already globally renowned as an operations and maintenance centre of excellence, keeping seven offshore wind farms operating out of Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Harwich, the supply chain embodies all that the government wants from wind – ambition, drive, innovation, technology, investment, workforce training and jobs.

It is ready to tackle the next-generation Five Estuaries, sister project of the £1.5 billion Galloper Offshore Wind Farm off Suffolk, North Falls. There is also an SSE Renewables and RWE Renewables joint venture to extend Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm off Lowestoft, as well as extension projects for Equinor’s Sheringham Shoal and Dudgeon, which will double the capacity of both to power 820,000 more UK homes. Then there is the new ScottishPower Renewables and Vattenfall projects together powering 6.6 million homes.

Seajacks started in 2006 and is headquartered in Great Yarmouth. The firm is one of the largest owners of purpose-built self-propelled offshore wind installation vessels, with five jack-up vessels working in China, Japan and across Asia and Europe.

It is building a vessel in partnership with Dominion Energy to be ready in 2023 for the US market, and new owner Eneti has a vessel under construction. About 75 staff are based in Great Yarmouth, another 25 in the US, Japan and Taiwan, and more than 300 offshore on vessels.

Lowestoft-based Pipeshield is enjoying a crescendo of growth, supplying its seabed protection mattresses and lifting frames to the UK, French and US offshore wind markets.

Gibb Safety and Survival, part of Clarkson Group, built a £2 million distribution and service hub at Great Yarmouth for its renewables potential. Its contracts with ScottishPower Renewables for its East Anglia ONE offshore wind farm and Vattenfall’s 11 UK wind farms equipment also created new jobs.

Dr Catrin Ellis Jones, Vattenfall’s head of stakeholder and community engagement for offshore wind, said: “There are some incredible companies here. The East of England is such an important exporter of skills and expertise across the global wind business and these contracts demonstrate our commitment to enable the untapped potential of UK companies in the renewables sector to be realised and boost local employment and economic regeneration.”

Lowestoft-based Fern Communications followed Lenwade-based Pegasus Welfare Solutions to become part of global offshore business OEG Offshore, after 20 years of designing and manufacturing offshore communications radio systems. The deal came days after Fern had signed a four-year contract for its Wavecom system for the new Moray East wind farm and will support its further growth.