Renewables Deep Dive: taking decisive steps forward
Paul Cook, Vice President (VP), Renewables and Callum Maxwell, Business Development Manager, Renewables take time out to look back on a positive 2022 and anticipate an equally progressive year ahead.
What would be the landmark moments from last year? Our holistic cable monitoring system for the offshore wind segment, ECG™, must feature prominently?
Paul: It is easy to forget that two years ago ECG™ was essentially in development rather than being the rapidly evolving solution it is now – yet in the intervening time, its progress has seen it secure crucial government funding and it has received industrial sponsorship from some of offshore wind’s biggest players namely ScottishPower Renewables in 2021 and Equinor during this past year.
Obviously, a highlight for the team was landing our first contract on the world’s biggest offshore wind farm, Dogger Bank, just as 2022 kicked off, with ECG™ now set to monitor the condition and integrity of the inter-array cables and terminations on phases A and B of the project. This is a blue-chip, big ticket wind farm, specifically engaging disruptive and unique technologies to support and scrutinise its operations, so this is as much an endorsement for ECG™’s value proposition and potential as a great early win for us.
The technology is still very new and its rollout continues. As part of that, another major milestone in 2022 was agreeing a deal with Equinor for ECG™’s full-scale hardware, software and data analytics capabilities to be deployed on Equinor’s Hywind Scotland, the world’s first commercial floating wind asset.
Callum: Hywind Scotland marks another exciting step forward and again quite unique. Very little scrutiny or monitoring has been undertaken with regard to dynamic cables on floating wind assets and this will really help prove the methodology and capability of ECG™ right across the offshore wind space, and not simply from evaluating fixed bottom cables and terminations. The technology will be installed shortly and we should be receiving data by the end of March.
One thing that became clear through 2022, as we moved forward with ECG™, was how our value proposition has gained more and more traction with the market. For instance, it is interesting to see how the significance of, and benefits from, providing termination monitoring have taken hold as actual termination failures have occurred and asset owners realise the consequences. The market is catching on to the real power and potential of what ECG™ can offer around assessing the integrity and condition of infrastructure, namely cables and terminations, that continues to be a source of faults and issues.
Would you say identifying those market needs, alongside shared opinions and collaborative approaches, have underpinned our technology development for offshore wind so far?
Callum: We have regular insightful discussions with a broad spectrum of industry stakeholders, including at events around the globe through the past year, where we have listened to their experiences and in turn shared our methodology and our on-going innovation. So, with ECG™ it is no longer so much about talking to developers regarding a specific product, as they are now starting to understand the wider practical value and philosophy behind the technology and how it can support the visibility of critical infrastructure. Also, in our engagement with the market, whereas it has primarily been, and still remains, EPCIs with whom we’ve tended to interact regarding project proposals, we are noticing other core segments of the industry exploring the technology’s potential too. This may be an area we can look at further in 2023.
I am also very pleased to have been appointed a co-chair of the O&M Subgroup within the DeepWind Cluster, an initiative established by Offshore Wind Scotland. The DeepWind supply chain cluster consists of 800 members drawn from industry, academia and the public sector. This is the largest offshore wind representative body in Europe and provides an excellent platform where once more we can engage directly with stakeholders and share expertise and insights.
Paul: Cable failures remain a critical problem that could hold back the speed of growth in offshore wind at a time when it really needs to accelerate. Currently, with more than 90% of all failures originating at either the design, manufacturing or installation phases, asset owners face inevitable issues. Sharing experience and knowledge is vital to overcoming challenges in any sector and key stakeholders in offshore wind need to come together and talk about what I call the ‘elephant in the room’: cable faults and failures and how we can, as an industry, reduce liability and risk, and mitigate these problems.
Combining skill sets and collaboration are absolutely intrinsic to Proserv’s wider philosophy. ECG™ provides a great example and Synaptec, BPP Cable Solutions and, in the developmental stages, Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult have played essential roles from early support through to deploying cutting-edge expertise and market-leading technologies. Such input has combined with our own control system integration capabilities and, of course, our global footprint in the energy sector to offer a route to commercialisation for innovation.
2022 could be described as having been a year of strengthening and expansion, from strategic senior appointments and team-building through to acquiring a stake in one of our closest partners Synaptec?
Paul: We continue to move forwards and ECG™ represents a firm and very positive step but as a controls technology company we are naturally innovating further solutions to offer value to customers right across the energy landscape. So, acquiring a stake in Synaptec helps cement an already constructive relationship over the past couple of years and we can advance our collaboration by seeking to generate further disruptive offerings to address the challenges faced by offshore wind developers and, in doing so, support the acceleration of the transition.
Last summer, Hugh McNeal, previously the CEO of RenewableUK, came into the senior team as a non-executive director and his experience not only offers us great resource, around challenging our thinking and bringing fresh perspectives, but he really buys into what we are doing. Hugh has great belief in the power of our technology and how we can positively impact offshore wind and help optimise and extend the life of its critical infrastructure in years to come.
I was personally delighted to join the senior leadership team myself and, after 13 years with the company gaining valuable experience in a range of roles, including leading the evolution of our renewables business over the past five years, this was a special moment in my career. But more widely I think my elevation to the senior team, alongside Stuart Harvey too as our VP, Digital Innovation, and Hugh’s arrival, underline how renewables and digitalisation are vital priorities for Proserv and our on-going pivot to align with the transition.
Callum: I was equally delighted to join Proserv’s team in this past year as I had got to know its aims, strategy, its technologies and outlook, as well as a number of its people, from my time at ORE Catapult. At OREC, I had worked closely with Paul and other Proserv colleagues for more than two years while the rationale and concept behind ECG™ took shape and provided support in that developmental phase. It was really telling to observe during that period how the future value of the technology resonated with the wider sector and it was no surprise to see ECG™ swiftly gain industry recognition and sponsorship.
My role at OREC included assessing the trends and direction of the offshore wind space and engaging with multiple projects, building connections and networks as ideas and technologies evolved. My remit is to bring that knowledge and those networks into Proserv and identify future opportunities. The past nine months have been very positive and Paul has led and built a truly cohesive group, full of talent and potential, as core elements of our global engineering and commercial teams. There is an emphasis first and foremost on people coming together as a unit and working, with our partners, to drive our renewables roadmap forwards. The Proserv team continues to grow, as it must, as we look at offshore wind accelerating rapidly in the years up to 2030 and beyond.
Proserv’s presence in the renewables industry is gaining traction, we have several exciting technology development channels well underway, encompassing analytics and intelligence, so what does 2023 look like for you?
Callum: Speaking with specific regard to ECG™, we are looking to cement further deals this year as the sector realises the critical need to improve the real-time monitoring of its cable and termination assets. More generally, what we are doing around technology development is getting ahead of the curve and that is vital for making a genuine impact in such a nascent industry as offshore wind.
We know that ECG™ is like nothing else in the market and one of our challenges with the forward-thinking technology aims we have for 2023, and beyond, is making sure we always bring the industry and its stakeholders along with us – and that is why that regular dialogue is so vital as it gives us an insightful read on what matters and where future opportunity lies. We have already been doing this very effectively with ECG™.
Paul: Our presence and visibility in the renewables supply chain sector are definitely growing and Callum’s arrival in 2022 gave the team a further positive injection. We have also just brought in Jeff Williamson to further augment our business development footprint in the US region as we look towards global opportunities, as offshore wind ramps up.
Our business is still relatively new and in its early phases, yet we now have an established track record, we will continue to expand our broader team in 2023 to build skill sets and our knowledge base, while we have also devised a broader technology roadmap and strategy. This now reaches into turbine monitoring, turbine control as well as turbine and field optimisation.
We are looking to instigate a truly unique and disruptive methodology, centred around real-time optimisation (RTO), to reflect the current and future needs of the sector and representing a step change from established processes – a very similar template to what we have done with ECG™.
As mentioned, collaboration, along with listening closely to the industry, remain vital building blocks of the innovation process and we have been working closely with Ortomation.io to propel this forwards.
Already in 2023, we have cemented a further landmark tie-up with a major global leader in automation solutions to accelerate the development of OEM agnostic control systems, incorporating RTO, to deliver real-time accurate insights to empower decision-making, extend the life of assets and significantly grow return on investment. Elements like RTO and future life extension have not been explored or considered sufficiently within offshore wind.
At the end of 2022 we were also awarded a place on the Offshore Wind Growth Partnership’s WEST business transformation programme. This is a valuable initiative, based around collaboration, that champions innovation and facilitates growth opportunities between developers and the supply chain. This will further help us with widening our footprint in offshore wind and with our commercialisation efforts through 2023.
We have ambitious and bold plans around innovation through the coming years but that fundamental Proserv philosophy of independence, accessibility, scalability, being OEM agnostic and being retrofittable underpins the creative process.
When we look towards potential future new product development in hydrogen or carbon capture, harnessing our controls know-how and subsea experience would be the cornerstone. We often use the phrase “evolution, not revolution” around our progress in renewables and we do that because it makes complete sense.