‘Technology saves’ was a mantra in the offshore oil & gas industry during the twelve years that I covered it as a journalist, and offshore wind technology’s high-tempo progress over the past decade is certainly central to the resource now being positioned by many as a main engine of the global energy transition. What will carry offshore wind forward into a decarbonised and decentralised future, however, runs deeper – in the spirit of innovation that continues to inform the technologies being devised. Make it new, the offshore wind industry – part offshore oil / part marine / part wind – must.
Industrialisation of revolutionary dimensions – faster serial production and installation of offshore turbines and substations, gigawatt-scale, lower operating cost fleets, and market-transforming new engineering – will be needed to create a worldwide energy infrastructure to supplant the vast offshore oil & gas production network built by the petroleum industry over the last 50 years.
Collective innovation has enabled industry to scale up its turbines to units nameplated today at 10MW — and with 15MW machines expected in the water for the subsidy-free projects of the mid-2020s – surely there is reason for optimism as we head toward having the first 100GW turbine inside the next decade.
I am not in the habit of quoting Steve Jobs, but in looking at the offshore wind industry’s recent history and highly prospective future, his idea that “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower” I think is apt.