Businesses set out their wish list to make most of wind energy boom

Power has started to flow from East Anglia One, a wind farm off the region's coast. Picture: Rob How

Power has started to flow from East Anglia One, a wind farm off the region's coast. Picture: Rob Howarth. - Credit: Archant

East Anglian businesses are in prime position to win contracts worth millions, with the region at the epicentre of a windfarm revolution.

A new report published by energy giant Vattenfall has laid out how local companies can contribute to the supply chain for its two upcoming projects, Norfolk Vanguard and Norfolk Boreas.

But for the region to make the most of the opportunity, the government must back SMEs.

MORE: Energy group works hard to keep the lights on and the future renewable amid coronavirus crisisVattenfall has compiled its report, released yesterday, with the input of more than 70 businesses from local SMEs to multi-million pound national firms.

The “Norfolk Vanguard and Norfolk Boreas Offshore Wind Supply Chain: Opportunities and Expectations Workshop Report” will be shared through the industry as well as being sent to central government.

Key expectations from Westminster includes a clear framework and plan for energy transition, encouragement and monitoring of local content, and more support for UK companies working overseas.

The report also asks for support and clarity on rules for microbusinesses and SMEs, and investment in skills.

“Our interaction with the supply chain has demonstrated the collective desire to deliver innovative, efficient, sustainable advances in technology for the next generation of renewable energy generating projects,” said Rob Lilly, Vattenfall’s supply chain manager.

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“We hope this report will encourage even more collaborative action from government with local bodies like local authorities and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, developers, Tier 1 and Tier 2 businesses and SMEs.”

Tier one businesses are those that will directly supply components to Vattenfall, while tier two businesses are those that also supply vital components but may have limitations to what they can produce.

The projects, if successful, would add another 3.6GW of installed capacity in the southern North Sea.

Vattenfall is hoping to win consent for Vanguard in June, and Boreas later in the year.

Together, the projects will supply the equivalent electricity needs of 10% of UK homes.

However the report also highlighted some action needed by Vattenfall, with regional SMEs saying they needed a better understanding of the sector, and more insight into long-term planning.

“No one has attempted what we are planning to build off the Norfolk coast, in terms of scale, technology and innovation, and key to achieving is working with a wider, active and involved supply chain so we’ve taken the initiative to ensure all developers can benefit by listening to their needs and issues preventing them from getting the most for their business out of offshore wind,” said Mr Lilly.

These conversations were tabled at a workshop event at East Coast College’s £11.7m energy skills centre in December.

OrbisEnergy, a renewable energy hub based in Lowestoft, has already launched a new apprenticeship scheme following discussions.

Gary Horner, sales and operations support for Global Wind Service at OrbisEnergy, Lowestoft, which supplies technicians and inspection technicians for wind farms across the world, said: “Just by facilitating a greater understanding of the entire lifecycle of the projects from concept to decommissioning and hearing the perspectives of a wide range of stakeholders has enabled a thorough exploration of sector challenges. We have been able to respond by launching a new apprenticeship scheme that addresses a very real need.”

Mr Horner was echoed by Mandy Masters, business development manager for Windcat Workboats, a designer, builder and provider of specialist crew transfer vessels.

The Lowestoft-based business, which has 45 vessels working around Europe, said meeting the developer so early had led to suppliers approaching projects differently, ultimately saving money and time.

“Understanding a client’s needs from the outset leads to real efficiencies. They can be confident we can make, install or construct according to their specifications, and add value by innovating to improve performance,” Ms Masters said.

“Sitting down with others in the supply chain, to explore how we can work together for the benefit of the client, was a revelation. For example, at the Vattenfall event, I met a company providing surveys. We spoke about how our vessels could be fitted with their equipment and how we could offer clients packages together, combining services and managing them for the client.”

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