If you live in the UK, you’ve probably already realised that you inhabit a pretty windy place – the windiest country in Europe, in fact! It’s estimated that with this incredible natural force, the UK could power itself several times over with the proper technology initiated. Not only is the use of wind power an ancient tradition that has been practised throughout history, it’s also an essential future energy production method.
We currently split wind generation projects into two types: onshore and offshore. Onshore energy is already an established clean and productive technology as well as the UK’s largest source of renewable energy. Offshore energy is also supplying more and more of the UK’s electricity each year and is leased in ‘rounds’ allowing for confident progress predictions over the next few years. With over 5,700 onshore turbines in the UK already, 1,500 offshore turbines and more projects planned for both onshore and offshore, it’s safe to say the potential of Britain’s shorelines is steadily being realised.
The increasing demand for wind power has created a robust supply chain of manufacturers for all components big or small, for everything from nacelle to turbine blades. In turn, this demand for steel and metal components is pushing companies that once focused their efforts on the oil and gas sector to turn their attention to wind energy. Luckily, this change has compensated the steel and metals manufacturers, who have been experiencing a reduction in work from the oil and gas sector in recent times.
Wave or tidal energy around the shoreline of Britain also has the potential to be very positive for the metal manufacturer industry. According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), wave and tidal stream energy combined has the capacity to deliver around 20% of the UK’s current electricity needs (which equates to an installed capacity of around 30-50GW). Additionally to this, a recent study suggests* tidal lagoons also have the capacity to generate another 8% of our energy needs, by using the power of rising water flows in miles of dams. Swansea is set to be among the first pioneering tidal power lagoon in the UK and plans are in discussion to build a U-shaped breakwater across the bay equipped with 16 turbines. This ambitious project would generate enough power to supply a staggering 150,000 homes with electricity. It’s certainly true that there’s plenty still to be learned about tapping into this form of energy but the DECC’s statistics – along with a government-commissioned report last week- creates a strong case for investigation and development. And if we think about all the infrastructure projects associated, this could have a hugely positive effect on our industry.
It’s time to embrace the incredible latent clean energy sources that Britain has in abundance and tap into the multibillion-pound shoreline of Britain. Tidal and wind energy will be a crucial part of balancing the UK’s future energy needs as well as caring for the environment. The challenge for the supply chain, including the steel processing sector, will be to ensure continuous investment in systems and product development to meet the rigorous demands of these sectors. Whatever the challenges, we think you’ll agree it will certainly be worth the effort!