Turning offshore wind power into a business opportunity and accelerating UK partnerships | Nikkei

Translated and extracted from the Nikkei website.

As the world faces the challenge of climate change, the UK is stepping up its clean energy efforts. Recent real-world events underscores the importance of energy security and the need to accelerate the deployment of renewable technologies to displace fossil fuels. The UK is particularly focused on increasing the level of offshore wind power in its energy mix. Here we will look at the current situation in the UK regarding floating offshore wind and the benefits of cooperation, referring to the case of Marine Power Systems, a UK floating offshore wind platform technology provider.

UK offshore wind power within the European context

In recent years, the UK has accelerated investment in decarbonization and clean energy. In 2021, new investment in this sector reached £24bn and 40% of the UK’s electricity comes from renewables. Among them, the country is focusing on offshore wind power. Its cumulative capacity is the second largest in the world and the largest in Europe. As a result of national efforts, the UK has been able to reduce the price of offshore wind power by 70% since 2014.

The UK has an ambitious goal of increasing offshore wind power generation to 50 GW by 2030. Of this, floating offshore wind power will contribute up to 5 GW. This milestone is an important part of the journey to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. By showing world class leadership in fighting climate change, the UK is stimulating significant interest from private investment from around the world.

Companies in Japan, which has a natural environment like that of the UK, can take advantage of this UK initiative and create new business opportunities. Surrounded by the sea on all sides, Japan has a favourable environment for offshore wind power generation. In fact, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated in 2007 that Japan could supply nine times its current electricity needs from offshore wind power alone.

By strengthening its partnership with the UK, Japan could unlock even greater potential in offshore wind power generation business and technology and become a clean energy superpower.

Marine Power Systems, a leading technology developer in floating offshore wind

What are the offshore wind power initiatives in the UK like? Here we spoke with Martin Carruth, Commercial Director of Marine Power Systems, a UK-based floating offshore wind platform technology provider.

Floating offshore wind power generation is wind power generation carried out on structures floating on the ocean that are tethered to the seafloor by mooring systems. Fixed bottom wind on the other hand consists of structures that are directly supported on the seabed. However, in deeper waters this approach is uneconomic and floating wind becomes a more attractive solution. Floating wind is therefore an ideal approach for Japan where the amount of shallow water is limited.

Marine Power Systems’ floating offshore wind platform technology, PelaFlex, is a modular, low mass solution. Cost reduction is achieved through minimising the number of primary steel components and adopting a simpler manufacturing process, where components are mass-produced and assembly benefits from automated joining technologies.

Unlike some other floating technologies, PelaFlex does not require specialised vessels during installation. The ability to use low specification marine infrastructure reduces cost and deployment duration. In consideration of the marine environment, PelaFlex’s Tension Legged Platform (TLP) mooring configuration has the lowest footprint of the four main types of foundation systems, which minimises the impact on other marine stakeholders such as fisheries, tourism, and defence.

“From a technical perspective, TLPs offer an easier pathway to obtain consents from local communities impacted by floating wind. The opportunity to significantly reduce the environmental impact and the amount of seabed needed to generate a certain amount of power are big advantages, particularly in Japan where marine stakeholders can decide what happens and what doesn’t. Local communities are very concerned that their livelihoods will be negatively affected by offshore wind. We are helping them realise the upside that TLPs can offer in terms of co-locating other technologies, such as aquaculture, and minimising the amount of fishing grounds consumed by wind farms”, says Dr. Carruth.

The PelaFlex system will pull strongly on Japan’s rich maritime heritage, industrial capability and strong technology focus to create new jobs and economic value across a wide range of sectors including, steel production, assembly yards, and ports.

Significant investment from the public and private sectors

According to Dr. Carruth, the UK’s leadership in offshore wind power generation is due not only to its abundant wind resources, but also to significant investment from the government and the private sector, which has fostered an attractive environment for developing and applying technological innovation.

The UK government has established the Floating Offshore Wind Manufacturing Investment Scheme (FLOWMIS) to support offshore wind investment, through which it makes large-scale investments that contribute to economic growth, supply chain development and energy security. An investment support scheme of up to £160m to support ports to prepare for the commercial-scale deployment of floating offshore wind power generation.

Additionally, the UK Infrastructure Bank is focusing on investments in net-zero infrastructure, particularly ports and floating offshore wind farms, and is attracting private capital in a variety of ways.

On another note, the UK Export Finance Institution provides “Export Development Guarantees” aimed at strengthening supply chain investment and supporting export expansion after entering the UK. Once a business is established in the UK, they provide help with any questions about exporting to new markets, the documentation required to sell goods abroad, or the rules of the specific country targeted, to facilitate growth.

“We have successfully raised a large amount of funds and have secured more than £16m pounds of grant funding to date. This has included more than £3.5m in funding from the UK government, which will help commercialise PelaFlex. Furthermore, we are collaborating with local universities and academic institutions to study wind power and wind speed adaptation technologies. We have also succeeded in raising funds from the retail market and with our strong financial base, we are advancing commercialisation and gaining significant commercial traction here in Japan and beyond”, says Dr. Carruth.

Regarding relationships with Japanese companies, Marine Power Systems has already begun collaboration with JGC on floating offshore wind power generation in Japan and talks about its expectations for Japan.

“PelaFlex’s modular design allows us to leverage existing capability and supply chain in Japan. In addition to JGC, we recently secured a relationship with a Japanese port to increase the deliverability of PelaFlex in Japanese waters. The aramid fibres in our tendon systems are produced by Teijin, headquartered in Tokyo. We are continuing to develop our network of Japanese partners to further increase the economic value from our system as well as build supply security for industrial scale developments”, explains Dr. Carruth.

Marine Power Systems’ success in Japan has led them to grow their international footprint, “We recently appointed a Country Director for the Japanese market. This is a significant step for Marine Power Systems and demonstrates the importance of Japan to our growth strategy. We felt it important to have boots on the ground, to help progress the opportunities that were being identified. Being local gives us many advantages in terms of being closer to our clients and stakeholders, to help achieve Japan’s floating wind ambitions. We see huge potential in Japan, and this will increase as we unlock more opportunities.”