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 potentially 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, produces a vast amount of power that can be harnessed by modern technology.
What opportunities are there?
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. These 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 (getting the right permission to build the wind farm or install the tidal turbine). 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. In addition, a developer needs to determine the effect of laying the electricity cables or installing an electricity substation and the effect that will have on the environment and on other users of the sea. Developers also need to know as much as they can about the site they want to use, including what the seabed looks like and consists of, so they know whether it’s a good place to put a turbine foundation for example. The developer also needs to collect information on the oceanographic conditions as they will affect construction and operation. For much of this work, developers use specialist consultancy companies that work on many different projects and employ lots of different people in different roles from Environmental Scientists to Oceanographers.
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. This highly important job requires experience and involves 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.
What special skills do I need?
This is an exciting field perfect for adventurous people. If you work offshore you might need good sea legs and will need be prepared to face wind, waves and rough weather. Fitness, stamina and a good head for heights can be important and being responsible and safety conscious are part of the job. However, don’t be put off if you don’t have any experience of working offshore or at heights – there are training courses especially designed to train people working in this field. And, of course, there are also plenty of office and land based roles available.
What about entry requirements?
There are opportunities for both non-graduates and graduates in the offshore renewables sector. Roles in R&D often require specialist qualifications to PhD level. Roles in development and consenting often require graduate qualifications either in a specialist marine renewables course or in oceanography, hydrology, geology, marine biology or environmental science. Roles in manufacturing, technical sales, and asset and project management often require a strong technical background and usually a graduate qualification in an engineering discipline: either marine, mechanical, civil or electrical engineering. Other routes include through vocational qualifications such as HND and HNCs. Finally, as in other areas of manufacturing, your career can start straight from school or college with many companies running apprenticeship programmes. Apprentices need strong practical and technical skills with good GCSEs in science and maths.
Many governments are seeking to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions with wind, wave and tidal stream energy technology being used to decarbonise energy supply, increase energy security and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. This means that the opportunities in this field are increasing. In the UK alone, over 500 companies engage in wind and marine energy related activities and activities in other countries are also growing in this area. Universities are developing specialist courses in marine and offshore renewable energy and many companies are developing apprenticeships and graduate training programmes.
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.
Where can I find out more?
Renewable UK Tel. +44 (0)20 7901 3000 Email www.renewableuk.com
The Crown Estate Tel: +44 (0)20 7851 5000 Email www.thecrownestate.co.uk