Planting turbines twice the height of the Statue of Liberty off the world’s windiest coastlines is integral to a global drive to wean economies off fossil fuels and slow potentially catastrophic climate change.
But the scale of such projects, the technical expertise required and lead times of many years mean few companies are capable of developing them, Ignacio Galan said.
“The number of players is very limited. To have already the resources, the talent needed, it takes time,” he said in an interview for the Reuters Global Energy Transition conference.
Oil majors with deep pockets are racing to apply engineering experience acquired on rigs at sea and in other challenging environments to an offshore wind rollout in which governments excluding China target a seven-fold increase in capacity to 170 gigawatts by 2030.
“Those who have been our enemies in the past are now our allies,” Galan said, saying oil companies had criticised his approach in the past.
“Now we are with them already bidding for certain projects, making projects together,” he said.
Even when they are not working jointly, Galan said he was glad other companies were stepping in, as it would take a combined effort to meet global targets for emissions cuts.
“There is room for everybody. Welcome competition,” he said.
HARDER THAN MECCANO
Emphasising the technical challenges of offshore wind, Galan said it was more challenging than say solar photovoltaic plants, made up of panels, whose assembly he compared to using a Meccano construction set.
By contrast, hundreds of engineers are working on offshore wind projects at an Iberdrola centre in London, he said, and the company will shortly open another facility in Boston.
“That is not something you can make from one day to another,” he said. “We started in the offshore business 15 or 14 years ago – it took a lot of time prior to making the first offshore wind farm.”
He also laid out the need for international efforts to develop expertise
British and Spanish universities are among those catering to the sector, but other parts of the world are more focused on serving areas such as data analytics.
“In the United States it is really difficult to recruit traditional electrical engineers,” Galan said.
“I recognise it is more exciting to work with these extremely attractive new devices instead of the bloody old-fashioned networks, transformers, turbines, I understand.”