A collaboration between the UK’s leading technology innovation and research centre for offshore renewable energy, the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, and European energy giant, Vattenfall, is now driving major progress in the sector by successfully testing new technologies in real-world conditions at the £300m Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm


DESPITE the rapid growth of offshore wind technology, there have previously been well documented challenges in relation to the development of the Scottish supply chain linked to that growth.

Recognising this, ORE Catapult and Vattenfall, one of Europe’s largest producers and retailers of electricity and heat, got together in 2019 to create real-world opportunities for a range of demonstration projects. 

Since then, a range of technologies which have the potential to address operation and maintenance challenges currently facing offshore wind farms have been tested at the site, such as blade repair, leading edge erosion, robotics, remote cable monitoring and autonomous inspection vehicles, automated drone inspection technology, state of the art rescue systems, and much more.  

As Hugh Riddell, Regional Partnership Manager at  ORE Catapult, explains, the initial partnering agreement was for three years, but on 1 January 2024, this agreement was extended for a further three years. That means that more companies will be able to access this world leading technology testing environment in the coming months and years. 

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Under the extended agreement, innovators can test and demonstrate new technologies in real-world operating conditions at Vattenfall’s £300 million Aberdeen Bay Offshore Wind Farm, off Aberdeen. 

This site consists of 11 large fixed bottom offshore wind turbines. Riddell points out that already, during its first three years of life, the collaboration has a range of successes to point to. 

“We have seen innovative companies testing and demonstrating products that address a whole raft of challenges faced by offshore wind  developers. These include technologies and processes to address blade repair and leading edge erosion, robotics and autonomous systems and remote array cable monitoring and inspection,” he comments. 

The Vattenfall Aberdeen Bay offshore Wind Farm is itself a pioneering development. It was the first wind farm to use suction bucket technology instead of piles and concrete to fix its offshore towers to the seabed. Each year, it offsets an average 134,000 tonnes of CO2 and meets the power needs of 80,000 UK households.

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Through this continued collaboration, ORE Catapult is able to help foster the development of technologies which are close to commercialisation but which need to be exposed to real life conditions. 

Riddell points out that he and his colleagues are in constant contact with a wide range of companies involved in developing innovative technologies specifically designed for the offshore wind sector. “My main role is to engage with the supply chain and developers and bring them together. The mission is to accelerate the formation and growth of innovative companies in the offshore sector,” he comments. 

Under the renewed agreement with Vattenfall, the Swedish company has some high-priority areas of focus, looking particularly for innovations around autonomy and robotics. 

“The more we can automate and use remote-operated drones and vessels to carry out inspections, the more we can lower operating and maintenance costs and increase safety standards,” Riddell notes. 

The use of an autonomous vessel offshore, or the use of drones to carry out aerial inspections of turbine blades, also enables very significant savings of CO2. “Instead of having a large vessel anchored off a floating windfarm burning diesel day and night through a maintenance mission, you’re reducing those emissions by the use of a much smaller, lighter remotely-operated vessel.”

This could involve the electrification and support of crew transfer vessels, for example, that are involved in the maintenance of offshore wind farms. 

Lisa Christie, UK Country Manager at Vattenfall said: “As a leading developer of offshore wind, the collaboration between Vattenfall and ORE Catapult at Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm is absolutely vital. We’re supporting technologies needed to promote a competitive offshore wind industry, strengthen the supply chain, and bring economic benefits to the UK.

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“What we offer companies is a world class testing and demonstration facility. Technologies must meet the highest requirements – delivering increased safety in offshore wind operations, minimising impact on the environment, and reducing costs of renewable energy. We look forward to continued working with ORE Catapult to provide a test bed for exciting innovations that address the challenges facing offshore wind as we push toward net zero.”

The north east of Scotland has many decades of experience in offshore oil and gas and has a strong supply chain that has evolved to service those industries. Many of these companies are now looking to turn their technical expertise into developing innovative solutions for the new generation of offshore wind farms. 

Having this type of agreement in place offers a fantastic opportunity for Scottish based companies to tap into the Just Transition from oil and gas to offshore renewable energy, and the economic opportunities that brings.



Collaboration makes waves in Scottish renewables sector 

THE Edinburgh company Zelim demonstrated its conveyor belt technology at the AOWF, which provides a great way for carrying out remote or crewed rescues of people who have gone overboard. 

Zelim reckons that it has changed how maritime operations can find, recover and protect people who have fallen into the sea.

Zelim tested its Swift Rescue Conveyor System at the Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm and demonstrated that it massively cuts the time it takes to recover people from the sea.   

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They showed that their system was 20 times faster than conventional systems in recovering people overboard offshore.  

The system can be incorporated into the design of new crew transfer vessel or retrofitted for use in the offshore wind industry.

Zelim’s patented rescue conveyor recovers people, whether conscious or unconscious, in any orientation in less than 10 seconds. 

Developed by experienced operational search and rescue personnel the Swift reduces the risk of injury during rescue.

The system has been tested up to Sea State 4/5 in 46-knot winds. It is rapidly deployable and is operated by a single button. There is a manual backup should the vessel’s power be unavailable. 

It can be incorporated into the design of a new vessel or retrofitted providing an enhanced rescue capability. 

Installation on an existing vessel takes less than a day, and Swift can be attached either off the side or the stern. 

The standard operating procedure is the same as existing overboard recovery solutions. 



  • This article was brought to you in partnership with ORE Catapult and Vattenfall