‘Groundbreaking’ West of Orkney Windfarm research programme unveiled

(L-R) Neil Kermode, MD of EMEC; Jack Farnham, development director of RIDG; Philippe de Cacqueray, head of offshore wind UK at TotalEnergies; Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands MSP; Andrew Mill, chair of EMEC; Mark Giulianotti, head of corporate finance and origination Europe at Corio Generation.

THE European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) has signed a ‘groundbreaking’ agreement with the West of Orkney Windfarm to begin a ‘major’ research and innovation programme.

Being built around 30km off the west coast of Orkney and 25km from the north Caithness coast, the wind farm’s first power is scheduled for 2029 with it being capable of powering the equivalent of more than two million homes.

Rights to develop the facility were secured in January by a joint venture group consisting of Corio Generation, TotalEnergies, and Renewable Infrastructure Development Group. Initial work with EMEC comes as a wider pledge to support the supply chain locally thanks to a £105 million project-level investment initiative, which is to be enhanced to £140 million by third parties.

EMEC has specialised in marine renewable energy innovation for almost 20 years, with the Orkney project seeing it look to to ensure the work can be delivered in a more efficient and cost effective way, with a ‘broad range’ of ‘challenges’ covered including the exposed location, environmental impacts, and increase remote operations.

It will review the offshore wind research and innovation landscape before mapping findings against the needs of the project and capabilities across the region. EMEC said this will inform the development of a long-term project-specific research and innovation programme which it will deliver in collaboration with a range of stakeholders including the local supply chain.

Mike Hay, general manager of the West of Orkney Windfarm, said, “EMEC and Orkney have become synonymous with pathfinder projects leading the way in renewable energy production. This partnership programme enables us to draw on EMEC’s considerable expertise and will ensure that local experience and data feeds into the project, building upon the cluster of business and academia that are active in the north of Scotland.

“Importantly, it will also inform how the West of Orkney Windfarm can be delivered faster, cheaper and at lower risk. At the same time, the programme will leverage EMEC’s network and experience to deliver local content and actively promote economic growth.

“We hope that EMEC’s unique status will enable the partners to identify new opportunities and attract additional funding, amplifying the investment from the West of Orkney Windfarm and its partners.”

Matthew Finn, commercial director of EMEC, added, “EMEC has been working with the West of Orkney Windfarm team for the past two years to support the early developmental phases of the project. Orkney and its surrounding waters present a clear opportunity to deliver significant amounts of carbon free and truly sustainable power. This new phase of work will allow us to help the existing supply chain build operational capacity and scale up activities.

“EMEC has been gathering data around the west coast of Orkney for the last 20 years and delivered a wide range of R&D projects for green offshore technologies, so we can feed our learning into the wind farm development. With the West of Orkney Windfarm just 30km west of EMEC’s Billia Croo test site, we believe it provides an ideal pathway for emerging technologies to scale up and move out into the harsh waters around us.”