Local companies get advice on lucrative supply chain opportunities

Invest Northern Ireland hosted a special event today to provide expert information and advice to local engineering companies seeking to exploit lucrative opportunities in the UK offshore wind energy supply chain.

It is estimated that the UK offshore wind energy market will be worth around £40 billion within the next 20 years. Indeed, the UK is rapidly becoming a world leader in offshore wind energy supply capability, with projects under construction around its shores accounting for almost half of global capacity.

Delegates from over 80 companies heard advice on how they can access innovation and R&D support from Invest NI to help them increase their capability and improve their chances of securing business in the industry.

Expert speakers in the field, including wind farm developers and renewable energy policy advisers, delivered informative presentations, to delegates. Interactive workshops and other activities focused on a range of areas, including practical aspects of offshore wind energy supply, such as the manufacture of blades, turbines and sub-sea structures.

Speaking at the event in the Tullyglass Hotel in Ballymena, Tracy Meharg, Invest NI’s Managing Director of Innovation and Capability Development, said: “With government targets requiring 10 per cent of all electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2010, the need for wind energy, and other alternative sources, is growing rapidly.

“The current supply network cannot accommodate the speed at which wind farms are being developed and this is presenting significant commercial opportunities for local engineering companies to fill the gap.

“Although there is a wealth of engineering expertise here, there are also many companies in the sector which could profit significantly from increasing their capability through a greater commitment to ongoing innovation and R&D. This could enable them to bid for contracts in wind energy supply which might currently be out of their reach. Invest NI can help companies achieve this by assisting them to identify improvements to products and processes and build on their current strengths.”

Ms Meharg added: “Only by maximising their innovation and R&D activities will companies in the sector here truly fulfil their potential – and doing so will not only put them in a strong, internationally competitive position going forward, it will also help to generate significant wealth for Northern Ireland as a whole.”

Delegates heard from Richard Brooks of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform on the latest UK renewable energy policies, and from Mike Hay of the Carbon Trust about the support the organisation can offer companies wishing to enter the wind energy supply industry.

Wind farm developers Airtricity and B9 Energy provided advice and guidance on their needs for current and forthcoming developments to delegates, and representatives from consultancy company BVG Associates advised on technical aspects of wind energy supply components.