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Progress is good, but more needs to be done

One of the executives who took part in this issue’s roundtable interview was Kurt E. Thomsen, of Advanced Offshore Solutions Aps. Here, he goes into greater depth about a few of the more pressing issues facing the wind industry.

PES: What are the obstacles to the development of wind energy?
Kurt E. Thomsen: Personnel, equipment, knowledge and money. The reasons are this: we need personnel in very large numbers. The people however do not materialize out of the blue with all the competence that is required in order to carry out production line work offshore.

WE need to train them, to implement a new mindset to the predominantly construction workforce we employ. This is difficult but necessary. If we cut corners, people will be injured and even killed on the job. Therefore, a large effort is required in order to develop and train the workforce we need. EWEA has recently estimated that in 2020 145,000 people will be working in the European wind sector – 75,000 of them offshore. Currently there are about 2,000 people who can call ourselves experienced. This presents a very big challenge to us all. To educate 70,000 people in 10 years while putting up wind farms offshore is almost impossible.

Equipment is crucial. For the public, this is now almost boring to talk about and certainly to hear about. But it is crucial that we develop the necessary and capable equipment for the industry, otherwise we cannot deliver the required targets within the time-frame that has been given. I am slightly worried that the equipment now being built is too small and too focused on a ‘here and now’ requirement, rather than looking at the big picture. But this is what happens when you must build your business case on an investment horizon of two or three years of work at best. We see these 110m vessels coming out with not much space, capacity and certainly in my opinion, not capable of delivering what is required in four to five years in terms of size and the exposure to the elements in the North Sea.

We must not forget, that it took the oil and gas industry 50 years from getting their feet wet until they got into deep water. And by the way, they still have accidents. We are trying to bridge the gap in less than 10 years. With what competence? And with what equipment?


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