Strathclyde programme saves millions for renewable energy players

SOURCE: Nicholas Doherty/Unsplash
The renewables sector is critical to the UK's net-zero 2050 target.

By U2B Staff 

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A research collaboration led by the University of Strathclyde is helping the UK ease closer to its net-zero target, delivering hundreds of millions in cost-saving benefits to the renewable energy sector within just five years of operations.

Launched in 2013 and bankrolled by sector leaders ScottishPower, SSE and Wood, the Low Carbon Power and Energy Programme under the university’s Technology and Innovation Centre seeks to reduce the costs and risks associated with both onshore and offshore wind projects through research projects.

With a total budget of just £3.72 million, the first phase of the programme that involved a total of 13 research projects delivered an estimated net cumulative benefit worth over £200 million, according to an independent assessment. A clear success, the programme has since been renewed for a further three years, with an additional £1.8 million in funding.

“Achieving successful outcomes from this joint collaboration, across such a wide range of projects, is truly unique and something we are very proud of,” Strathclyde Deputy Associate Principal Professor Stephen McArthur said.

“It’s an excellent example of how academia and industry can successfully collaborate and develop truly innovative projects aimed at tackling key industry challenges.”


Although spearheaded by the department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering (EEE) the programme brings together a multidisciplinary team of experts from across the university’s engineering faculty, including those in marine, mechanical and civil engineering.

Through collaborative research, the experts focused on transferring low carbon innovations generated at the university into new tools and capabilities for their industrial partners.

“It aims to unlock new revenue streams for existing wind farms, as well as reducing the cost of installations at offshore wind farms by better understanding the logistics involved.

“Many of the outputs have led to significant improvements nationally, including the more efficient running of both onshore and offshore wind farms,” McArthur said.

Renewable Energy is needed to achieve the UK's 2050 goals
Following the UK’s target for net zero carbon emissions by 2050, research efforts towards sustainable energy should be prioritised. Source: Markus Spiske/Unsplash.

The UK and climate change

The Low Carbon Power and Energy Programme is a timely initiative, given the UK’s target to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

The renewable energy sector plays a critical role in this. Seeing as the UK is currently the world leader in providing wind energy, the programme is focused on optimising onshore and offshore wind farm outputs. 

One of the research projects involves the frequency response from wind farms to further optimise each farm’s sustainable capabilities to generate electricity. 

University researchers have developed a system to ensure the National Grid is continuously informed of wind farm capabilities in matching supply with demand on a second-to-second basis. 

Another project monitors and provides technical information on the condition of wind turbines. It also helps in other operational aspects such as reducing wastage, maintenance and allowing continued generation of electricity. 

There is a potential £18 million worth of savings through income generated by the wind farm for every year of extended life, with a target of 20 years.

The initiative also provides cost-saving solutions for offshore wind turbine installation. Data analysis is used to decide the most cost-effective conditions to send out boats to perform installation and maintenance. 


Cost-saving benefits for industry partners

The university’s industry partners are already reaping the benefits. SSE, for instance, is estimated to experience savings of about £13 million per project.

“SSE continues to find value from this collaborative partnership in providing solutions and insight for a variety of industry-wide challenges related to project development and asset management.”, said SSE Engineering Manager in Technology James Bowers. 

Other industrial partners shared his sentiment.

“ScottishPower truly values the collaboration and innovation inherent in the Low Carbon Power and Energy Programme.  Real challenges are met with new insights and solutions which are developed and deployed in order to help us all deliver affordable, low carbon energy systems,” said ScottishPower Head of Innovation, Sustainability and Quality Barry Carruthers. 

“The programme is providing genuine advances which are essential to meeting the challenges of decarbonising our energy systems,” said Wood Director of Innovation, Alan Mortimer.

The programme has been shortlisted in the Energy and Environment category of the Engineer Collaborate to Innovate awards