By Michiel Van Haersma Buma
Just ahead of COP26 I was on the beach with my kids on the Dutch coast. The wind turbines aren’t far out so I’m able to see a wide array of them. While my kids are primarily concerned with the size of jellyfish that have washed ashore, my mind is on the future: will my kids have to worry less about the climate on the planet when they are taking their own children out on the sand someday? One thing is clear, that will require a revolutionary turnaround, starting at COP.
Fast forward a few days and here I am. Wow, it is an exhilarating atmosphere in Glasgow. The city has turned into one big event venue with the world’s top politicians and industry leaders, and rightly so. We’re on the verge of destroying our planet, so that warrants attention from any and everybody. Also from me.
It feels exciting to be part of a technology company that can play a major role in accelerating deployment of offshore wind, and while I’m not a country president, I still feel like I have a crucial role to play. My industry, offshore wind, is part of the solution that will deliver the energy transition. But with 95% of the offshore wind still to be built to meet Net Zero by 2050, we need to accelerate enormously, and quickly.
Today’s wind farms take multiple years to plan and then another four to five years to progress from bid award to first power – for the windfarm that I was looking at from the beach, it took almost 10 years! The reasons are plentiful, obtaining capital, permits, and aligning a wide range of stakeholders to name a few. Critically, it also takes years to design and manufacture the actual turbines.
In order to meet IEA targets we need to reduce the ’time to first power’ by at least 50%. This will require a team effort. Government needs to create the policy and incentives to accelerate site and environmental approvals, and industry needs to up their game significantly in terms of innovation. The latter I feel most passionate about. If we want to save the planet we cannot afford using legacy methods and siloed working to come up with heavily over-designed offshore wind structures that take years to design & build. Remember: 95% of offshore wind needs to be built to meet IEA Net Zero! We have to drastically change our approach.
At Akselos, we have developed the technology stack to deliver these integrated design approaches. If manufacturers and developers are willing to play their part and enable a higher degree of data sharing, then we can not only select the best concept in less than half the time it takes today, but also optimize these designs to achieve tens of percent weight reduction. That is both a major cost reduction driver and, with 1.85tons of CO2 emitted per ton of steel produced, also contributes to lower emissions.
That 50% reduction in time to first power is much closer than we think.
Our platform has the potential to speed up progress for an industry that has the ability to accelerate the energy transition significantly. There will be many more people like me and firms like Akselos here at COP26 in Glasgow – with the energy I have seen; I’m hopeful we stand a chance.
If we play it right, I may actually be able to worry more about jellyfish than the planet when I stroll the beach with my kids a decade from now.