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Wind farm foundations advance key to delivery of NIC renewable energy aims

wind farm

Industry efforts to drive down the costs of offshore wind farm foundations are supporting the call for more use of renewable energy by the National Infrastructure Commission.

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has today published its first-ever National Infrastructure Assessment of UK infrastructure and has backed an acceleration of investment into renewable energy.

According to the report Britain has a “golden opportunity” to switch to greener ways of providing energy to homes and businesses.

The report highlights the need to switch towards low carbon and renewable sources for both the country’s power and heating, and continuing to invest in low cost renewable technologies, such as wind, to provide at least half the country’s generating capacity by 2030.

The NIC’s drive towards renewable energy over nuclear options is supported by the reducing costs of offshore wind farm foundation design and delivery. 

The Pile Soil Analysis (Pisa) project, which won the 2017 Fleming Award, demonstrates the potential to further reduce costs further supporting the NIC’s aims. The Pisa initiative brought together clients, consultants and contractors from across the offshore wind sector to develop a new design method for monopoles, which could deliver 30% savings on embedded steel and could save around £300,000 on each turbine foundation.

In addition research being undertaken by Ørsted and HR Wallingford into suction bucket foundations under the Foundation Response to Scour Protection research programme is examining different forms of scour protection to assure the stability of offshore wind turbine monopiles and look at the most effective for maintaining foundation performance.

Currently, around 30% of the UK’s electricity comes from renewable sources - up from 12% five years ago. Today’s National Infrastructure Assessment recommends that the Government take steps to push this even further and ensures that a minimum of 50% of electricity comes from renewables in 2030.

NIC chairman John Armitt warned that this would only be possible if the right decisions are taken now by government.

“Whether for cooking, lighting, keeping homes warm or electric cars on the road, where the UK’s energy comes from will need to change radically over the coming decades if the UK is to meet its legally-binding climate change targets.

“If we act now we have a golden opportunity to make our country greener, and protect the money in the pockets of consumers long into the future – something few of us expected to be able to do.

“Ministers can seize this chance by investing in renewables and other low-carbon technologies so they become the main players in our energy system – something that was considered a pipedream as little as a decade ago. But they need to act now to realise the full potential of what can be achieved.”

According to the report, in the longer term an energy system based on low cost renewables and the technologies may prove cheaper than building further nuclear plants, as the cost of these technologies is far more likely to fall, and at a faster rate.

Fugro global product manager for renewable energy Tony Hodgson said: “Fugro welcome the development of offshore wind using foundations designed with high quality in-situ and laboratory testing which will lead to lower project cost, reduction in delivery schedule and ground risk. We see offshore wind and onshore renewables as a significant growth area and we support the NIC report which backs the acceleration of investment in this market”

NIC commissioner David Fisk added: “Falls in the prices of renewable technologies have made them increasingly viable as one of this country’s main sources of electrical power.

“Nuclear power stations will not be coming onstream before the 2030s - so we need to continue encouraging development of wind and solar energy sources to meet our legally binding climate change targets.”

The National Infrastructure Assessment recommends that:

  • Established technologies like wind and solar power be allowed to compete to deliver the overwhelming majority of the extra renewable electricity needed as overall demand increases, with measures to move them to the front of the queue for Government support.
  • Government sets out a clear pipeline, with dates and budgets, for future auctions to support renewables.
  • The feasibility of hydrogen and heat pumps as a low-carbon alternatives to oil and gas for heating be established, with community-level trials for hydrogen in place by 2021, and a trial to supply at least 10,000 homes by 2023.

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