Towards the end of July a report was published that, candidly, you’d be forgiven for having overlooked.
Authored by a specialist UK engineering consultancy, it took a closer look at the supply chain for offshore wind farm power export cables.
In it, the author and his team assessed whether existing cable manufacturing capacity was sufficient to meet the needs of developers operating in the space.
As I say, since the cable and transmission market isn’t known to set many pulses racing, I’ll let you off the hook if the study was initially overlooked.
However, I urge you to take another look. Since while the specifics of the report might not necessarily be of interest, some of the broader conclusions are wholly applicable to the vast majority of us. Particularly as individuals and enterprises throughout the wind energy sector get to grips with the challenge of managing and understanding the true complexity of supply and demand.
Of course, the report cited many of the usual common themes.
China cropped up as a market that offered much promise to European developers. Although while the market offered a natural route for reduced costs and increased supply, the all too often cited concerns regarding quality and proven market experience remained.
Then there was the issue of tackling system voltage. A technical bit of wizardry that would – by upgrading many traditional AC lines to a higher power transmission – create the possibility of reducing the number of cables required and by proxy, creating a longer term saving both in terms of time, equipment and money.
However, tackling this issue of cable supply (or lack thereof) wasn’t all about reducing the amount of kit required. Moreover, many of the suggestions involved no such technical genius but moreover a healthy dose of common sense.
Take for instance the issue of cable rating. Traditionally, a very conservative approach is adopted here, whereby the cables that are installed far exceed the realities of a daily operating load. Instead, they’re based on past use, whereby transmission loads were far more constant and where as a result, corresponding energy loss (often through heat) could be equally high.
Not so with wind farms. And not so on many traditional technical assumptions that have simply been pulled across from previous power and transmission experience.
Time then, for some fresh thinking and a new approach. And time then, for a new set of common standards. An initiative that would help to bring some new thinking not just to the technicians but to the procurement and management teams working at all levels and battling with the challenges of supply.
As an industry we’ve slowly started getting better at setting targets, raising standards and looking further into the future. That’s all well and good.
However, without radically rethinking the way in which we tackle the wider issue of supply and demand we’re in danger of getting bogged down in the detail. Perish the thought.
The Irish Government has unveiled changes to its second offshore wind tender that the industry said have created “massive levels of uncertainty”. We look at what this means for the up-to-80GW of offshore wind projects in development in Irish waters.