WE LIVE in interesting times and although it may seem hard to look beyond the next few weeks, as we all focus on playing our part in helping to limit the spread of the ongoing COVID-19, when we get to the other side of it, the same challenges that faced us before will await us.
One such challenge is of course climate change. Cork has been playing its part in finding cleaner ways of producing energy.
Cork has long benefitted from EU funding for research and innovation across a range of areas including technology, science and agriculture and in this article I will take a look at how EU funding helps researchers and industry in Cork develop innovative solutions to provide renewable energy through offshore windfarms.
Beginning in 2013, LEANWIND received €10 billion from the European Commission public bodies and businesses representing various sectors including oil, gas, maritime, clean energy and logistics and transport, across almost a dozen countries. LEANWIND was led by researchers at UCC, with additional involvement from CIT and the Beaufort Research Laboratory in Ringaskiddy.
LEANWIND looked at many different aspects of the life-cycle of an offshore windfarm, including their installation, operation and maintenance, to see how to lower costs and improve efficiencies. This project also involved experts from a range of public bodies and businesses representing various sectors including oil, gas, maritime, clean energy and logistics and transport, across almost a dozen countries.
Researchers reviewed the whole life-cycle process of an offshore windfarm from start to finish and were able to identify problem areas and areas that could be improved to better meet the demands of the clean energy industry. The challenges of constructing and operating windfarms were investigated as researchers came up with innovative ways of designing and installing the main structures in a windfarm so that the process would be quicker, safer and cheaper.
Maintaining windfarms had long been a challenge both in terms of the cost and logistics of accessing the site. To combat this, researchers looked at solutions involving a combination of new and existing technology to lessen the costs and improve the ability to manage a site remotely. Within this, improved procedures around the health and safety of installing and maintaining sites were also proposed.
As reducing the cost through improving offshore windfarm efficiencies was the main goal of this project a lot of work was done to optimise and improve existing business models and to ensure that process improvements could be rolled out across the industry.
Following the completion of this project, researchers succeeded in identifying key processes and responses to the challenges that exist within the industry. These can be applied both at a local level in Cork and also at a European level, as similar developments in offshore windfarms across the continent can continue to build on LEANWINDS guidelines as we work towards achieving the EU’s climate targets.
The clean energy industry employs over 18,000 people and is worth €1.5 billion to the economy. The industry is also expected to grow even more in light of the EU climate targets of an 80%-90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Due to Ireland’s abundance of natural energy resources, Ireland could play a major role in creating sources of low-cost clean energy such as offshore windfarms, as we have shallow waters in key regions and plenty of wind (sometimes too much wind!), both excellent natural conditions necessary for the construction and maintenance of windfarms.
It remains to be seen what will come after this pandemic and when that time will come, both Cork and Ireland will continue to play an important part in European and indeed global efforts on climate change.