The scale of the challenge the offshore wind industry faces helping to address climate change and meet ambitious growth targets make collaboration with China on R&D a ‘no brainer,’ experts involved in leading research and development organisations claim
In a special session of the conference at WindEurope Offshore 2019 dedicated to research and innovation priorities, it was argued that many challenges the offshore wind and the green energy sector faces could be addressed much more quickly if Europe – long the leader in offshore wind energy – collaborated with China, which is expected to become the world’s largest offshore wind market.
Prompted by session chairperson Henrik Stiesdal, one of the wind industry’s leading figures and thought leaders, speakers agreed that global collaboration on offshore wind R&D was essential.
Mr Stiesdal highlighted his personal experience of the massive investment in R&D for all forms of energy in China, and offshore wind in particular. He asked panellists in the session whether R&D efforts were too ‘Euro centric’, and whether much faster progress might be made if European research organisations worked with those in China.
ETIP Wind chairman Aidan Cronin agreed that Europe would benefit “if it dropped the fortress thinking.” He said the level of funding available to Chinese research institutes far exceeds that in Europe. “Their ability to take risks far outstrips Europe as a result,” he told the conference.
Mr Stiesdal suggested that European companies were afraid that China “would take the market later,” if they collaborated with China. Mr Cronin said that to an extent that was inevitable, and that Europe could either “fight them or join them.” He said the possibilities for collaboration are “huge” and the European Union needed to get R&D done much more quickly.
Mr Cronin said the challenges are such that progress in offshore wind R&D would only take place quickly enough if collaboration occurred.
SINTEF Energy Research chief scientist John Olav Tande said, “Europe still has a leading position, but China will pass us unless we make huge investments in R&D.”
“Global collaboration is essential,” said Mr Tande. “We need a massive effort to understand key challenges facing the industry, such as flow in windfarms.”
All of the speakers at the event said that wind energy’s grand challenges would only benefit from a combined approach to R&D, as would issues such as storage and producing hydrogen or ammonia using green electricity from offshore wind.