The €2.2 billion London Array offshore wind farm will start generating power in time for the Olympics and will ultimately be the world's largest offshore wind farm with over 300 turbines. However, this is just one (and nowhere near the largest) of 37 UK offshore sites currently being leased by The Crown Estate to accommodate some 7000 turbines by 2020 with 33 GW generating capacity.
To supply, install and operate thousands of turbines will require a manufacturing and support services industry comparable in scale to that of North Sea oil and gas. Supply chains that could expand to manufacture these turbines already exist in continental Europe, but this market presents an opportunity for UK composites businesses to get involved as they already offer many relevant skills and services.
The technical and volume of supply challenges go far beyond current onshore wind engineering. Annual production for UK offshore installation will reach 1000 turbines by the middle of the decade, and include opportunities for:
- design and manufacture of composite blades up to 75 m long and 30 tonnes in weight;
- supply of panels for nacelle covers (weather shielding of turbine machinery) and rotor spinners (hub cover); and
- supply of shear webs, root end platforms and other internal components of blades.
To ensure maximum UK business involvement, wind supply chain expert help is available free of charge through the Department for Energy and Climate Change’s UK Renewables Service. This can assist businesses to understand the opportunity for them, signpost to sources of further assistance and plan an approach if appropriate, including strategic support under a non-disclosure agreement.
The Crown Estate is also running a series of Offshore Wind Supply Chain Events around the UK from January to March 2010.
This story is an extract from the feature Offshore wind opportunities for UK composites published in the January/February issue of Reinforced Plastics magazine. Read the complete feature here.