Dramatic reductions in the cost of offshore wind have “transformed the political landscape” and put wind power at the heart of UK Government energy policy, a Siemens Gamesa executive has told a major industry conference.
Ray Thompson, UK Head of Business Development for Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, told the Offshore Wind Connections conference that costs of offshore wind farms had halved in the past three years and would continue to fall as the industry grows and becomes ever more efficient.
He told the event in Hull, where Siemens Gamesa has established world-class offshore wind manufacturing, assembly and port facilities, that the industry had made “fantastic progress” in its focus on driving down bills for consumers.
“Offshore wind has gone from being an expensive technology but a green choice, to the cheapest utility-scale form of electricity generation,” he said.
“That has transformed the political landscape. It’s been a struggle at times to persuade ministers to support renewable energy but now, with the costs coming down, they really are committed to it and getting behind it.
“Offshore wind is now at the heart of energy policy and the Government’s clean growth strategy.”
The Offshore Wind Connections conference, organised by Team Humber Marine Alliance, drew leading industry figures from the UK and abroad to the Humber, which has become recognised as a centre of global excellence for the industry. Siemens Gamesa was the conference’s headline Diamond Sponsor and Mr Thompson one of the key speakers.
Mr Thompson told delegates the UK was the leading nation in the world for offshore wind with 7.5 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity from more than 1,700 wind turbines off the UK coast and a pipeline of projects that could see growth to over 30GW by 2030.
“That would be a really significant milestone and achievement for the UK,” he said. “A little while ago that seemed pretty optimistic and perhaps unlikely. Now we are pretty confident that it’s achieveable and on track.”
He said the industry was becoming even more efficient and cost-effective through investment in better turbines, port facilities, installation vessels and logistics, citing Ørsted’s Walney Extension East project where Siemens Gamesa’s turbines were installed in just four months.
He added: “The way we are building these wind farms now is spectacular in terms of the efficiencies we are achieving. It’s miles away from where we were on some of the early wind farms. Achieving that speed and efficiency of installation just seemed impossible.”
Mr Thompson said the Humber was becoming “a focal point for the industry around the world” and Siemens Gamesa’s investment in Hull had been a powerful catalyst for regeneration and local pride.
“I started coming to Hull when we were in the very early stages of planning for the factory in 2011. As a visitor, it’s a different city now, it really is.
“The attitude and optimism of the people, the feel about the city and the physical infrastructure have all been transformed and we are incredibly proud to have been a part of that.”
Mr Thompson referred to planning under way for Siemens Gamesa’s Hull factory to build 81.5m blades for the company’s next-generation 8MW turbines and the sensational impact created by the installation last year of one of the company’s 75m blades in Hull’s Queen Victoria Square as a UK City of Culture art installation.
He added: “We’re wondering whether we’ll be asked, ‘if you’re going to make bigger blades, can we stick one back in the square?’ The answer is ‘you’re going to need a bigger square’.”
Offshore Wind Connections, held at the DoubleTree Hilton hotel in Hull, placed the spotlight on the increasingly positive outlook for green energy, with a strong focus on the Humber where billions of pounds are being invested in offshore wind infrastructure.