Offshore wind digital; Offshore wind digital;

Without digital, will offshore wind achieve ambitious net zero targets?

Countries around the world are committing to developing offshore wind industries that work towards net zero. There are ambitions to install a further 1000GW of offshore wind capacity by 2050. Whilst each country will have a unique and varied approach, there can be little room for hesitation when it comes to the pace of offshore wind deployment. To meet these ambitions, it’s critical to find innovative ways to overcome challenges from cost to risk.  

Scaling at pace

It’s no secret that a combination of reliable data, innovative technology and people with deep domain expertise and industry knowledge delivers better outcomes. The future of energy services and lifetime performance is reliant on a deep implementation and understanding of data; and when planning offshore wind developments, the use of sophisticated data and digital tools to inform decision making is crucial. 

But is the offshore wind industry really capitalising on making smarter data led decisions? 

Offshore wind farm engineers Offshore wind farm engineers

Data led decision-making

Data led decision-making

At the start of an offshore wind project there are many considerations to factor in - seabed suitability and uses, sea biodiversity, marine life protection, shipping and fishing zones are just a few. For new offshore wind developments, having a handle on such information and data can support the decision-making process to become much more streamlined, providing the ability to assess the success and risk factors in a shorter period of time to enable smarter outcomes.

Outlining an aim, gathering data, modelling it, and applying the findings from the start of an offshore wind project to help decision making reach the next steps is how the industry must move forward to grasp the net zero ambition.

With initial development aims agreed, utilising a data led and digital approach to interpret and act upon this can provide fast assessments - for example, potential offshore wind sites for governments and developers. Taking a digital modelling approach enables greater risk reduction, based on a stronger evidence base, ultimately creating savings on capital and operational costs.

Outlining the steps to data: informed decisions on siting and deployment

From our involvement across the industry, we see several critical elements that can be explored with a data led approach and benefit from being truly digitally led. Here are a few when considering how a digital approach can transform early-stage offshore wind decision making, and aid in siting and deployment:

· Step 1 - Understanding the baseline Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE): Establish the expected average net present cost of electricity generation for the development over its lifecycle, across any user defined zone, built up from a detailed understanding of all aspects of offshore wind farms.

· Step 2 - Identifying the constraints: Assess the implications of geospatial drivers, constraints, and consenting risks, such as seabed conditions, wind speed, protected habitat areas and high- density activities such as fishing or shipping.

· Step 3 – Geospatial optimisation: Work to identify the optimum performance level of potential locations by considering the influence of different geospatial factors and risk against LCOE.

· Step 4 - Deployment analysis: Providing multiple scenarios of potential future deployment at a region or country level across time, taking into account changes over time and considering different deployment targets, supporting the evidence base for policy decisions.

Scaling up the opportunity

With climate change having increasingly devastating impacts– there is no room for costly delays or mistakes when it comes to enabling renewable energy supply. Across the world there is already over 30GW of installed offshore wind capacity, with the UK currently leading the way with 10.4GW of installed capacity at present. Countries such as China, Australia, Japan, the USA, Poland, and others are at a critical point to grasp the offshore wind sector and shape its potential.

Our experience has led us to develop a digital and data driven approach to offshore wind planning factoring in the several critical elements already mentioned, by developing the SCALE solution. This approach speeds up the deployment of offshore wind developments across the world through LCOE and spatial considerations optimisation, factoring in a multitude of data across critical decision-making areas to plan for success. Without this approach, the planning of a development is at risk of cost and scheduling implications.

Pursuing data led offshore wind development

As we’ve already seen across other sectors, when the power of digital and data is harnessed to its full potential, progression is made at great speed with the added benefits of reduced cost and risk where available. With the right commitment from the industry and using insights and tools such as the SCALE method, the same will happen for offshore wind markets across the world. Without it, we risk significant challenges to meeting offshore wind capacity goals.