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By Marie-Louise Bozonet, Head of Energy, Square One Law
The North East has been instrumental in the delivery of major projects in key sectors for several generations, from ship building to oil and gas, and now, the region is writing the next chapter of its history with its central position in the offshore wind sector.
With the natural advantage of being relatively close to the emerging offshore wind farms and the opportunity to develop impressive, and much needed new infrastructure we have the opportunity to put the North East front and centre in the development of this dynamic sector. We can build on a growing cluster of innovative supply chain companies, which have built an enviable reputation for the creation of technology-led solutions delivered by experienced and highly skilled workforces.
Of course, offshore wind is not new to the North East. Indeed, the first wind farm was built off the coast of Blyth and a number of companies, particularly in the subsea sector, have been involved since the inception of the industry paving the way for other companies to follow their lead by diversifying their complementary skills, products and services into the renewables sector.
The announcement of the government’s offshore wind sector deal followed by the recent awarding of the Contracts for Difference (CfD), which enables operators to deliver Round 3 wind farms has produced almost the optimal result for the North East. It is creating fresh momentum for the sector and demonstrates we are now entering a very exciting phase in the growth of the industry, which is creating considerable opportunities for North East businesses.
I recently attended the Offshore Wind North East conference and exhibition, which attracted the developers behind the Dogger Bank Wind Farms and the Sofia Offshore Wind Farm, which were keen to engage with companies from the region.
The supply chain was equally enthusiastic, with around 700 delegates attending the event, keen to discover how they can support the development and subsequent operations and maintenance of these particular wind farms, which will be located off the North East coast.
At the conference I was impressed with the broad range of companies offering a plethora of technical solutions and support services. We act for a number of leading clients in this sector and speaking to many of them, it was clear that offshore wind is providing optimism and growth opportunities for the region.
Among them is Osbit, the offshore technology company, which has an extensive global track record of developing cutting-edge equipment for back-deck and subsea applications. Osbit’s engineers design and build bespoke equipment, primarily for use in the offshore wind, oil & gas and subsea industries.
Brendon Hayward, Managing Director and co-founder of Osbit said: “We’re passionate about improving the way offshore energy is delivered, by redefining what is possible for our customers.
“Ninety percent of our supply chain and employees on our globally delivered projects are from the North East and we have a huge confidence in the capability, as well as a commitment to ongoing skills development, within the region. This is underpinned by our strong belief in the North East as a place to invest, grow and do business in the offshore sector.”
I also spoke with Neil Etherington, Able UK’s Business Development Director, who explained: “Offshore wind provides an almost unprecedented opportunity for the North East and we like to think that at ABLE we are playing our part. Last year we provided both the facility and onshore logistics for the foundation package for Orsted’s 1200MW Hornsea One offshore wind farm and next year will be doing the same – this time the turbine package – for Innogy’s 870MW Triton Knoll offshore wind farm. Hopefully though this is just the start and we are looking to develop new facilities on the Tees to provide two new adjacent installation facilities and, crucially, additional space to attract new manufacturing activity.”