Ireland and UK work together on the winds of change
With the UK home to almost 40pc of globally installed wind capacity, opportunities are rising for Irish cleantech exporters.
Enterprise Ireland will hold its first Offshore Wind Forum in Dublin on March 21 to showcase how developers and contractors in the UK offshore wind industry can work with the Irish supply chain to help achieve its ambitious 2030 offshore wind targets.
Enterprise Ireland will also officially launch an offshore wind cluster, with more than 80 companies earmarked for involvement.
With the UK keen to maintain leadership in the sector, being part of its supply chain can deliver strong industry references and global recognition for Irish exporters.
Under the offshore wind sector deal announced last week, the UK plans to generate 30GW (gigawatts) of offshore wind power by 2030, up from a current capacity of 7GW.
The 2030 vision will require a £48bn investment in UK infrastructure spending and significant interaction with international supply chain partners. Importantly, strong commitments by the UK government should help safeguard sector spending beyond March 2019, regardless of Brexit outcomes.
The forum will provide an opportunity for UK offshore wind developers and their top-tier contracting partners to meet companies supported by Enterprise Ireland to outline their UK project plans and supply chain needs. Discussions will also focus on the Irish offshore wind market and opportunities and challenges involved in its development.
Irish companies have a well-established record of driving growth in the offshore wind sector, dating back to Arklow Bank in 2004,one of the first offshore wind farms in either Ireland or the UK.
Irish influence in the UK can be seen in the Hornsea One project off the Yorkshire coast, developed by Irish company Mainstream Renewable Power and currently the world's largest offshore wind project.
Irish companies have substantial capability across the offshore wind supply chain. Irish Sea Contractors works with developer Orsted to provide sub-sea inspections for its UK offshore assets. The same company is also leading on sub-sea cable repair innovation with its patented habitat solution. Others, such as Xocean, use unmanned surface vehicles to provide seabed mapping and turnkey data collection services for industry.
Irish companies also offer excellent geotechnical and environmental engineering expertise. Gavin & Doherty Geosolutions identify uncertainties, risks and challenges in the design, installation and operations of offshore wind farms such as Neart na Gaoithe.
For Irish firms who have mainly worked in the onshore wind, marine engineering or Internet of Things (IoT) spheres, or those who are relatively new to the offshore wind sector, Enterprise Ireland will launch its inaugural Offshore Wind Insights programme at the forum.
The initiative, coordinated by Enterprise Ireland's London office, will see several shortlisted Irish companies paired with experienced UK industry mentors. The Insights programme will enable Irish companies to receive valuable commercial and technical feedback to help them position effectively for the UK market. For mentors, it provides an opportunity to discover services and innovations ahead of the curve.
Further developing the already skilled Irish supply chain should also help unlock the potential of what may be Ireland's greatest untapped natural resource, the wind blowing off our extensive coastline.
For the UK to achieve 30GW of offshore wind, the industry will have to work closely with domestic and global supply chain partners. Given Ireland's close business and cultural ties to the UK, expertise in the marine and energy sectors, and the fact we are separated by only 12 miles of sea at the closest point, the Irish supply chain is a natural partner for its offshore wind projects.
Darragh Cotter is a market advisor specialising in cleantech, based in Enterprise Ireland's London office.
Sunday Indo Business