We hosted our annual conference at the University of Hull’s Aura Innovation Centre on 16-18 January 2024. Themed around ‘The Acceleration of Offshore Wind Targets’, the conference brought together over 100 offshore wind specialists from industry and academia.
Aura CDT Director, Prof Rob Dorrell said:
“It’s been fantastic to see our Aura CDT students presenting their innovative research throughout the conference. We’ve also been really fortunate to have a wide range of people from industry give presentations and join in with the rest of the conference and we’re grateful to them all for their enthusiastic involvement.”
Katharine York of the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult said that the Aura CDT conference had “given me the chance to see my industry through different eyes. People are really thinking about the legacy, people are asking what happens next.”
She added that, “Aura CDT students ask brilliant questions, there’s a fearlessness in you – keep that up.”
We had a fantastic range of guest speakers presenting offshore wind industry insights and innovations.
Marie Renner of EDF Energy spoke of the challenges but also opportunities for the sector: “Offshore wind is a dynamic & difficult to master environment but full of opportunity for countries, companies and academics.”
Andrew Elmes, Head of Net Zero at Siemens Energy talked about the exciting role of offshore wind as the backbone of UK Net Zero 2050, predicting that: “In the next few years renewables will surpass fossil fuel and hydroelectric energy”.
Natascha Engel, CEO of Palace Yard cross-party think tank & former MP made a convincing case for the importance of engaging with policy makers. As energy experts, she said we can “provide MPs an entry point into what us a very big and complex issue”.
Tom Nightingale, North East Stakeholder Manager for Equinor provided insights into the operation of their major offshore wind farm at Dogger Bank.
We were also pleased to welcome academic colleagues from the Ecological consequences of offshore wind (ECOWind) Programme. These included Kimberley Lloyd, Consultant at Howell Marine Consulting and member of the ECOWind Champion Team, as well as Aura CDT Alumnus, Jordan Burgess, who is continuing her research into the effects of substrate vibration on benthic species.
Visioning the future of offshore wind
The final session of the conference was a panel discussion asking “what will the offshore wind industry look like in 2040”. Aura CDT Deputy Director, Prof Jim Gilbert acted as chair for the session and was joined by panellists:
- Andrew Jenkins, CEO and founder of Kinewell Energy
- Victoria Metheringham, Head of Biodiversity and Environment Science, DEFRA
- Niall Tracey, Offshore Surveyor, GeoXYZ
- Katharine York, Operations & Maintenance Centre of Excellence Manager at the ORECatapult.
Katharine York predicted:
“By 2040 5gw of existing offshore wind infrastructure will have been decommissioned. Wind will be installed around the coasts of most continents, including floating. To get there we need to go through the birth of a new industry.”
Victoria Metheringham said:
“I would like to see more flexibility in the way we go forward, taking positive risks for the environment, risks to get to nature recovery and biodiversity net gain. There will be massive impacts on coastal communities – there’s an amazing opportunity to take the communities with you.”
Niall Tracey predicted that “some roles that are currently offshore will move onshore due to improvements in data capture and the use of Artificial Intelligence. New technology is in its infancy but drone fleets are also in development.”
Andrew Jenkins talked of “new challenges in the industry around the decommissioning and repowering of replacement wind farms as well as the integration challenge for energy storage.” He also expressed a hope that “the diversity of the industry will be significantly different to what it is today.”
The overall tone of the discussion was positive, with Katharine York remarking:
“The UK is considered to be world leaders for our ideas so we have immense influence – there is capacity for the UK to become a global superpower in offshore wind energy.”
Career progression insights for our Aura CDT students
Andrew Jenkins also gave an inspirational presentation on his experience of PhD innovation licensing and spin out. His company, Kinewell Energy utilises mathematics to accelerate the deployment of offshore wind and reduce the cost of energy production. He offered some great advice for our PhD researchers who may be interested in starting their own businesses:
“If you have something that adds value to industry there will be a business model to commercialise it. You don’t have to be perfect just better than everyone else!”
We were delighted to welcome back Aura CDT alumnus Niall Tracey, who gave a talk about the elements of his CDT experience that have helped his new role with GeoXYZ. Niall is an offshore surveyor, spending 28 day blocks on a survey ship. He had gained direct experience of offshore surveying with the Royal Navy and separately with the University of Hull while completing his PhD.
Niall’s new role includes preparing the survey ship, so he’s found Aura CDT skills in coding and engineering useful when building and installing survey equipment. He acknowledged that soft skills developed with the Aura CDT, like team building, have been very useful as they operate as a cohesive single team on the survey boat. In addition, health and safety is a big consideration at sea, so the overview of risk assessments covered in the Aura CDT training was useful.
Our annual conference provides a platform for our talented postgraduate researchers to share their ground-breaking research with colleagues and industry.
This year, the winner of the best presentation was Cohort 3 student Enora Lecordier. Her research utilises satellite data and remote sensing to assess the potential for colocation of aquaculture with offshore wind energy farms.
Winner of the best student poster was Cohort 2 student Maisy Bradbury, who is working with HRWallingford on mitigation of scour around wind turbine bases – an issue that can cause disruption to power lines.
As well as presenting at the conference, a number of Aura CDT students also took on the role of session chair, introducing guest speakers and fielding questions from the audience. Our particular thanks go to Nilotpal Dhar, Nicholas Wilson and Daniel Whitt, who were also heavily involved in the organisation of the event.
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