Redressing the Balance
The UK Government publicly stated net zero targets by 2050 have been given high profile press coverage in recent years. However, some of the businesses interviewed for the documentary felt there needed to be clearer incentives and more consistent policies, with considered targets along the way and realistic timings to implement processes, helping boost real growth and investment. The process of energy transition is complex and will involve changes to how we look at the likes of heat, transport, power and their respective supply chains.
A world leader in wind
The UK is a world leader in wind power, particular offshore wind. The technology is established, proven and a key part of our energy mix today. Wind turbines are continually advancing. They’ve gone from generating between two and three megawatts ten years ago offshore to 10+MW today.
Current trends, such as the move towards commercial scale floating offshore wind, are going to require significant innovation to realise these ambitious plans for these future projects coming online in deeper water, further from shore.
The UK’s energy grid is complex. There is no single technology that can provide all the answers. For wind, an issue is intermittency. Put simply, it is not windy every day. What happens when the wind stops blowing?
Our Managing Director, Mark Finch, says:
"Intermittency is a problem, but it’s solved by different places being interconnected with cables, so you can transfer the power from essentially where the wind is blowing to where it's not. The large power cables that connect countries, or run across countries or continents, will help to even out the whole power distribution conundrum."
An innovation gathering momentum is the idea of 'energy parks' where multiple ways of generating clean energy are all on one site. For example, on-shore wind turbines along with solar panels and energy storage in a single location or specially constructed energy islands, as is currently being proposed in Denmark. The end goal is the same; a more reliable supply of energy to the grid.
The role of storage
One of the fastest growth areas is in energy storage and the large-scale development of battery technology. In the UK alone, the total capacity for energy storage has gone from a concept scale to over 800MWh in the last five years and there are plans to add 4.3GWh of energy storage across the UK in the next 12-18 months.
We are now in a position where we can store this cleaner energy far more effectively. But it's the integration of energy storage into the system that's really going to help allow much greater penetration - and variability - of renewables into the network, also minimising intermittency.
Machine Power to the People
Leading companies are using the latest methods of data collection, artificial intelligence and automation to make renewable energy much more efficient. Terabytes of data are being recorded. So how that data is managed, interpreted and put to use is critical.
Here at Ternan Energy we have our own in-house data management team, whose primary focus is on generating value from the data.
As Mark Finch tells us:
"There's a lot of innovation at the moment in things like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and we need to be at the forefront of all these technologies to make sure that the energy transition is successful."
Data is collected through a variety of methods, one of them being a geophysical seismic technique that uses non-intrusive soundwaves to survey the seabed and record cloud-based data sets.
New developments mean unmanned vessels and vehicles can be programmed to visit specific off-shore geological sites and collect data, without putting any humans in unnecessarily harsh or dangerous weather conditions or extreme depths.
Together this contributes to a more informed view on the seabed and sub seabed conditions which in turn assists developers in understanding what is required when fixing foundations to offshore wind turbines - both fixed bottom and floating.
The Energy Mix of the Future
With continuing developments in green technology and innovation, storage capabilities, data collection, research and education, AI and machine learning, we’re positive about what’s around the corner.
Dr Aggie Georgiopoulou, our Principle Marine Geologist, says:
"Collaboration, I think, is really, really important and that’s where innovation will come from…education is going to be fundamental in producing people with the right skills for what is coming down the line."
The importance of education is paramount in equipping the next generation with a strong skill set that applies to the renewable sector. There is a looming challenge of an acute skills gap and demand for technical talent across the industry.
The key is to keep up the momentum, create a sustainable workforce, grow and develop their skills, be open to innovation and make sure we work together to make a difference.
At Ternan Energy, we are determined to play our part. We are heavily involved with academia and research and place great emphasis on our recruitment policy and internal team upskilling.
We see this as the crucial foundation to future innovation. We have a responsibility to help foster the next generation of scientists and engineers so that we can continue to serve our clients and be there to assist in the energy transition.