Working together to cut the cost of renewable energy
ASIDE from in politicians and those working in the industry, the concept of "energy security" is unlikely to stir a huge amount of interest.
But explain to the average consumer how energy security – or rather, a lack of it – will result in spiralling electricity costs and an inability to keep the lights on in their house, and suddenly the subject grabs their attention.
Replacing traditional sources of energy with renewable ones is one solution. But in order for this to be commercially viable, the cost of renewable energy has to be driven down.
This week, experts from across the UK and Europe gathered at the University of Hull to look at how innovation and technology are helping to cut costs and what more can be done smooth the transition to a "greener" energy mix.
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SMart Wind – a Joint Venture between Mainstream Renewable Power & Siemens Project Ventures – is developing the offshore wind farms within the Hornsea Zone, which is part of the round-three wind farms in the North Sea.
Steve Clarke, UK content manager at Mainstream and SMart Wind, explained how the Smart Wind consortium was already driving down costs.
He said: "SMart Wind is, to date, the only supply chain-led solution to large-scale, far-offshore wind energy, capable of development, manufacture, installation and long-term operation and maintenance.
"The Hornsea Zone is just one of nine large round-three projects in UK coastal waters, comprising almost 5,000sq miles in area and capable of generating 4GW of energy by 2020 – approximately 4 per cent of the UK's electricity.
"Due to its scale, SMart Wind is designing and delivering Hornsea as smaller, standardised wind farms of 500 to 600MW in size.
"This modular approach will reduce costs by driving economies of scale in manufacturing and construction, as well as offering a far greater degree of predictability to the investment community and to the supply chain."
A "supergrid" of electricity connections throughout Europe is another concept that would help boost the UK's energy security while driving down costs for consumers.
Similar to the national grid, the supergrid would enable the transportation of clean, secure energy to wherever it is needed most.
Mr Clarke added: "The Supergrid concept has been espoused and championed for many years by our CEO, Dr Eddie O'Conner, but Mainstream is also now at the forefront of delivering it, too.
"In April, Dr O'Connor launched "Energy Bridge", which aspires to be the first 'supernode' (large offshore interconnector) of the Supergrid through installation of an electrical connection between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
"Plans are at an advanced stage to facilitate the export of some of Ireland's renewables capacity to relevant UK substations.
"The UK's ability to physically demonstrate that this project is under way will be vital in convincing our Western European partners of our appetite and our capability to deliver the same off the East Coast, in the North Sea."