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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Technical and economic analysis of offshore wind advancement in the UK

Renewable energy and, in particular, offshore wind has been at the forefront of the UK green industrial revolution. The UK aims to produce 40GW of energy from offshore wind by 2030 and has a commitment to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. While most studies regarding offshore wind turbines concentrate on technical efficiencies, wind farm layouts and construction sequences, no published paper aimed to answer what are the critical materials and their quantities used in wind turbines and how it compares to the UK targets for the green industrial revolution.

Therefore, the scope of this study encompasses researching materials needed to construct wind farms and comparing them to the global annual production. At the same time, this study will include the calculation of costs that arise from manufacturing, assembly, installation, transportation and maintenance activities. To estimate material requirements and potential costs, assumptions on wind turbines models, foundation types, grid layouts and offshore locations have been made. Three different wind turbine models, based on existing offshore wind turbines in the UK have been considered in this research and comparisons between them were drawn.

From the three turbine models, the largest one is the most economically feasible. In particular, when considering installation costs, using larger, but fewer turbines is more efficient. However, it has been estimated that a total offshore wind advancement cost would be at least £37 billion by 2030, which is almost double the investment the UK aims to achieve according to The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution. In terms of material requirements, rare earth metals are a critical consideration, because their quantities needed to achieve the UK targets are extremely high compared to global production. This suggests that the UK has to carefully choose the type of wind turbines for future projects and, in particular, the generators they contain. Finally, the lack of installation vessels available in the market presents a potential bottleneck and an investment from the government into new installations vessels is required if the country wants to achieve its targets in time.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.