The world has an abundant source of natural, clean power, derived from the wind, waves and tides. Unlike traditional fossil fuels, this energy will never run out. Renewable energy is essential for reducing the devastating effects of climate change and protecting the natural environment for future generations. Offshore renewable energy includes offshore wind, wave, and tide, where the strength of the wind, the pull and rise and fall of the tides, and the movement of waves, produce a vast amount of power that can be harnessed by modern technology.
Opportunities exist all over the country, not just near the coast and many companies have offices overseas so there are opportunities for travel. There are a vast number of areas of employment from working outdoors at a renewables site, in a laboratory or in an office.
The employment opportunities in this area can best be described by the lifecycle of a marine renewable energy installation. Typical stages of this lifecycle are:
Research & Design – People working in this area are usually scientists, mechanical engineers and electrical engineers or technicians. They are often working on innovative and exciting technologies. In addition, there are often roles for sales managers who can be dealing with sales of hundreds of millions of pounds worth of technical equipment.
Development and Consenting – A project developer leads the whole process and is normally one of the big energy utility companies seeking to build and operate a renewable energy site which might be an offshore wind farm, or an array of devices to capture energy from the tide or waves. Development managers work for these companies on areas such as site identification and consenting and licensing. As part of the process, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a requirement. This involves collecting and analysing all the necessary environmental information so the effect that the installation may have on the natural habitat and animals that live in, or use, the area can be understood. The developer also needs to collect information on the oceanographic conditions as they will affect construction and operation.
Technical Analysis – People working in this area often have advanced IT skills including those who develop software, carry out analysis of data, and use a number of specialist computer programmes. Technical analysis typically includes environmental analysis and marine science, and aerodynamicists (for wind turbines) or hydrodynamicists (for marine devices) are key at this stage to enable the development, construction and operation of offshore renewable energy facilities.
Construction and Installation – The construction and installation process includes a huge number of people with a variety of trade and technical skills including, for example, welders, pipe fitters, platters, electricians, mechanical fitters and riggers, and vessel operatives. Many of the skills involved are similar to those in the offshore oil and gas sector and many of the companies involved work in both sectors. Opportunities also exist for construction managers whose role will involve being both office-based but also spending time on installation vessels to check the project’s progress.
Operation and Maintenance – After many years of planning, construction and testing, an offshore renewables installation is ready to produce electricity. At this point job opportunities exist for engineers and technicians to work on maintaining the infrastructure through the life of the equipment and site. There are also jobs for skippers of offshore vessels who ferry workers and equipment to and from the sites and for deck crew who assist in the operation of the work boats. Back on land, asset managers are responsible for the long-term health of the wind farm or other installations that their company owns. This role often involves the management of assets worth hundreds of millions of pounds.
Credit: This information is extracted from “Your career in offshore wind energy” published by the Crown Estate in association with Renewable UK and BVG Associates and from “Choosing a Career in Wind, Wave and Tidal Energy” published by Renewable UK.