By Caroline Carslaw, Asset Engineer
Since September this year I have been lucky enough to work on one of the largest private investments ever in Scotland, the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Limited (BOWL) project.
The 84 turbine offshore wind farm, situated 13km off the coast of Caithness, will be able to generate enough electricity to power up to 450,000 homes once completed in 2019. Not only that, but the £2.6bn investment has helped develop the offshore wind supply chain in the UK and Scotland and bring benefits to the local communities close to the wind farm. It’s definitely a very impressive project to be working on!
Image: Caroline showing the scale of the foundation piles used at Beatrice.
Having joined SSE’s Graduate Programme in September 2015, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about the diverse nature of SSE’s generation assets in the UK and Ireland. I’ve been able to contribute to projects for hydro, thermal generation, onshore and offshore wind, in both development and operation and maintenance based roles. When it came time to choose whether or not to stay with SSE or find a role elsewhere it was an easy decision, SSE offered me the opportunity to develop a career in the energy industry whilst working for a company that believes in acting responsibly – not many people can say they work for a FTSE 100 Fair Tax accredited company.
In September of this year, I officially completed SSE’s graduate programme and became part of the BOWL team as an Asset Engineer. My role will take full effect once the wind farm becomes operational and starts generating and operating. From then I will be involved in planning and organising maintenance and asset management activities to ensure the wind farm is able to generate safely and meet demand. But, in the meantime, I am able to work between Beatrice and Greater Gabbard Offshore Windfarm to build up my experience of the industry and assets.
September wasn’t just a good month for me this year, it was also a pretty good month for offshore wind when the CfD auction results showed that the price paid for electricity from offshore wind farms has dropped by more than 50% in under five years, making offshore wind the lowest cost option for large-scale, low-carbon power.
Embarking on my career in the offshore wind industry just now is definitely very exciting, as the technology is evolving quickly. Over the next few years we are likely to see new, bigger and more efficient offshore turbines, meaning they can generate even more power from the great wind resource we have in the UK. With the increase in size of turbines, and supporting infrastructure, we will need to ensure we are ready to meet any new maintenance challenges that come our way.
Image: Caroline and colleagues at the temporary base at Wick Harbour
I’m also proud to be working in a sector that is creating job opportunities and other economic benefits for people in the UK. Take our operations and maintenance base in Wick for example, the project is helping to restore two iconic Thomas Telford buildings in the harbour and, once the renovations are complete, the base will support up to 90 long term jobs. Added to that some local contractors have been working on the project it’s great to see first-hand the positive effects a project like Beatrice can bring.
As offshore construction work continues at Beatrice - nearly all piles are completed and jacket installation is going well - I am already looking forward to seeing the turbines generate for the first time. I had the opportunity to travel to Wick last week and venture out on the Crew Transfer Vessel to see the installation activities first-hand. It was amazing to get an appreciation of the size and scale of the jackets and the site itself. It will be pretty spectacular once complete!
I feel really privileged to be part of bringing Beatrice to life and look forward to continuing to build my knowledge of the industry as my role develops. With Dogger Bank and Seagreen in SSE’s pipeline of offshore wind projects I will hopefully be able to use my experience at Beatrice to help continue to develop SSE’s offshore wind portfolio and help make SSE one of the UK’s leading developers of offshore wind.