EPSRC and NERC Centre for Doctoral Training in Offshore Wind Energy and the Environment

Lead Research Organisation: University of Hull
Department Name: Energy and Environment Institute

Abstract

There is a compelling need for well-trained future UK leaders in, the rapidly growing, Offshore Wind (OSW) Energy sector, whose skills extend across boundaries of engineering and environmental sciences. The Aura CDT proposed here unites world-leading expertise and facilities in offshore wind (OSW) engineering and the environment via academic partnerships and links to industry knowledge of key real-world challenges. The CDT will build a unique PhD cohort programme that forges interdisciplinary collaboration between key UK academic institutions, and the major global industry players and will deliver an integrated research programme, tailored to the industry need, that maximises industrial and academic impact across the OSW sector.

The most significant OSW industry cluster operates along the coast of north-east England, centred on the Humber Estuary, where Aura is based. The Humber 'Energy Estuary' is located at the centre of ~90% of all UK OSW projects currently in development. Recent estimates suggest that to meet national energy targets, developers need >4,000 offshore wind turbines, worth £120 billion, within 100 km of the Humber. Location, combined with existing infrastructure, has led the OSW industry to invest in the Humber at a transformative scale. This includes: (1) £315M investment by Siemens and ABP in an OSW turbine blade manufacturing plant, and logistics hub, at Greenport Hull, creating over 1,000 direct jobs; (2) £40M in infrastructure in Grimsby, part of a £6BN ongoing investment in the Humber, supporting Orsted, Eon, Centrica, Siemens-Gamesa and MHI Vestas; (3) The £450M Able Marine Energy Park, a bespoke port facility focused on the operations and maintenance of OSW; and (4) Significant growth in local and regional supply chain companies.

The Aura cluster (www.aurawindenergy.com) has the critical mass needed to deliver a multidisciplinary CDT on OSW research and innovation, and train future OSW sector leaders effectively. It is led by the rsity of Hull, in collaboration with the Universities of Durham, Newcastle and Sheffield. Aura has already forged major collaborations between academia and industry (e.g. Siemens-Gamesa Renewable Energy and Orsted). Core members also include the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult (OREC) and the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), who respectively are the UK government bodies that directly support innovation in the OSW sector and the development of novel marine environment technology and science. The Aura CDT will develop future leaders with urgently needed skills that span Engineering (EPSRC) and Environmental (NERC) Sciences, whose research plays a key role in solving major OSW challenges. Our vision is to ensure the UK capitalises on a world-leading position in offshore wind energy.

The CDT will involve 5 annual cohorts of at least 14 students, supported by EPSRC/NERC and the Universities of Hull, Durham, Newcastle and Sheffield, and by industry. In Year 1, the CDT provides students, recruited from disparate backgrounds, with a consistent foundation of learning in OSW and the Environment, after which they will be awarded a University of Hull PG Diploma in Wind Energy. The Hull PG Diploma consists of 6 x 20 credit modules. In Year 1, Trimester 1, three core modules, adapted from current Hull MSc courses and supported by academics across the partner-institutes, will cover: i) an introduction to OSW, with industry guest lectures; ii) a core skills module, in data analysis and visualization; and iii) an industry-directed group research project that utilises resources and supervisors across the Aura partner institutes and industry partners. In Year 1, Trimester 2, Aura students will specialise further in OSW via 3 modules chosen from >24 relevant Hull MSc level courses. This first year at Hull will be followed in Years 2-4 by a PhD by research at one of the partner institutions, together with a range of continued cohort development and training.

Planned Impact

The Aura CDT will produce offshore wind specialists with a multi-disciplinary perspective, and will equip them with key skills that are essential to meet the future sector challenges. They will be highly employable due to their training being embedded in real-world challenges with the potential to become future leaders. As such, they will drive the UK forward in offshore wind development and manufacturing. They will become ambassadors for cross-disciplinary thinking in renewables and mentors to their colleagues. With its strong industrial partnership, this CDT is ideally placed to produce high impact research papers, patents and spin-outs, with support from the Universities' dedicated business development teams. All of this will contribute to the continued strong growth of the offshore wind sector in the UK, creating more jobs and added value to the UK economy. Recent estimates suggest that, to meet national energy targets, developers need >4,000 offshore wind turbines, worth £120 billion, over the next decade.

Alongside the clear benefits to the economy, this CDT will sustain and enhance the UK as a hub of expertise in this rapidly increasing area. The UK has made crucial commitments to develop low carbon energy by 2050 and this will require an estimated ~£400m UK RDI spend per year by 2032. Whilst the increase in R&D is welcome, this target will be unsustainable without the right people to support the development of alternative technologies. It is estimated that 27,000 skilled jobs, including in research, will need to be generated in the OSW sector. Of these, ~2,000 are estimated to require HE Level 7-8 qualifications. This CDT will directly answer the higher-level leadership skills shortage, enabling the UK to not only meet these targets but lead the way internationally in the renewables revolution.

Industry and policy stakeholders will benefit through-
a) Providing challenges for the students to work through which will result in solutions to pressing and lo-term industry challenges
b) Knowledge exchange with the students and the academics
c) New lines of investigation/ revenue/ process improvement
d) Two-way access to skills/ equipment and training
e) A skilled, challenge focused workforce
Society will benefit through-
a) Offshore wind energy that is lower cost, more secure and more environmentally friendly, with a lower impact on precious marine eco-systems.
b) Engineers with new skillsets and perspectives that can understand environmental constraints
c) Skilled workforce who are mindful of the environmental and ethical impact
d) Graduates that understand and value equality, diversity and inclusion

The research projects undertaken by the Aura CDT students will focus on projects with a strong impact. The 6 themes have all been chosen after extensive industrial consultation and engagement that accelerated after the formation of the wider Aura initiative in 2016. The collaborative approach which has shaped this proposal will be continued and enhanced through the life of the CDT to ensure that it remains aligned to industry priorities.

The interdisciplinary nature of the OSW industry means that there are a wide range of stakeholders including large and small companies who are active at different stages of OSW farm development. These industry players will help ensure the training and experience provided in the CDT addresses the range of challenges that the industry faces.

Publications

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