Renewables sector to face skills shortage

More than 2200 commercial divers will be needed to help build and develop Europe’s offshore wind sector as it rapidly expands over the next six years, according to leading industry analysts.

The study, which was carried out by Douglas Westwood, focuses on the installation and maintenance phases of offshore wind farm development over the next six years.

It concludes that 1700 divers will be needed during the installation phase where there is a potential for 17.7 GW to come online. 2013 will see a peak in demand with 500 divers required, mainly in the UK and Germany.

With the potential of 3800 turbines coming online in Europe by 2016, an additional 500 divers would be required during the operations and maintenance phase.

The report also concludes that:

  • During the operational phase, 1.3 divers will be needed for every 10 turbines.
  • From 2010 - 2016, the majority of divers required for the installation phase will be in water depths from 20 – 39 m.
  • It is projected that turbines in depths of more than 40 m will become more frequent, leading to an increased need for divers.
  • Before 2008, most turbines were installed in depths between 10 – 19 m. Now projects are moving further offshore, with 90% of new developments in depths greater than 20 m.

Steve Ham, General Manager of The Underwater Centre, said the new report underlines the integral role that commercial divers will play in the offshore wind farm sector.

“We have been speaking for some time about how there will be an increased need for commercial divers to meet the demands of the nascent renewables sector, specifically the high number of wind farms that have been planned,” he said.

“This report from Douglas Westwood reinforces our message that there is a danger that demand will outstrip availability of trained subsea personnel which, in turn, could affect the progression of some of the wind farm projects.

The findings of the report are no surprise to leading industry representatives who say that the renewables industry is in danger of suffering from a raft of skills shortages.

Subsea UK chief executive Alistair Birnie said: “There is a growing and urgent need for skills right across the energy industry which this report clearly underlines. We cannot rely on our existing pool of resources to support the massive growth rate and the only way we will succeed is if we invest in the right skills at the right time. This report highlights divers as being one of the pressure areas, which also includes skills such as engineers and technicians.”

“Attracting new blood into the industry, combined with the energy industry working together to consolidate existing resources, is essential if we are to address the demand for skills now and in the future.”

Eric Doyle Alternative Energy Manager at energy consultancy Xodus Group said: “It is important that a resourcing assessment is made across the Offshore Wind supply chain and that an action plan is put in place to service the growing sector and to help minimise delays to wind farm projects. The industry is in danger of suffering from skills shortages in many disciplines and it is crucial that these risks are not underestimated and that action is taken now to transfer appropriate skills, knowledge and experience from the oil and gas industry.”

Published on 12/08/2010

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