Alstom and DCNS sign floating wind energy partnership agreement
Alstom and DCNS have this week signed a partnership agreement in relation to the floating wind energy business.
The agreement aims at developing and then commercialising an integrated system for a semi-submersible floating wind turbine delivering six megawatts of energy. The groups will combine their respective skills as naval architect and turbine manufacturer to develop a competitive, powerful solution for a large potential market.
The objective is to be in a position to produce an initial 6MW wind turbine by 2017, featuring a semi-submersible floating system developed by DCNS plus Alstom’s Haliade 150 offshore wind turbine, already being used in fixed-bottom offshore wind turbine technology.
Named “Sea Reed”, this project has received support from the ADEME, through a Technological Bricks CEI implemented as part of the “Investissements d’Avenir” scheme, specifically €6m in funding to cover the initial study and certification phase for the floating system featuring the Haliade turbine.
Securing this support is a decisive step in developing a competitive solution for a floating wind turbine series model.
Alstom’s Renewable Power Chairman, Jérôme Pécresse, said: “By combining the technology of our Haliade offshore wind turbine with DCNS’ unique expertise in the maritime field, we are merging our respective know-hows as early as possible in the process so we can work together at developing an innovative, competitive energy solution.”
To begin with, both partners will work together at optimising the interface between the two systems. Alstom will be in charge of studies to adapt and integrate the Haliade with the floating system. For its part, DCNS will conduct studies on the behaviour, sizing, industrialisation and installation of the floating system combined with the turbine.
Floating wind energy provides an innovative alternative for enhancing the energy potential of maritime settings that are too deep to install fixed-bottom foundations. Such settings usually provide better wind conditions while being more extensive and less travelled than near-coastal areas. The floating system’s innovative design and its simplified installation process (assembled at the port) will help the offshore floating wind energy business deliver competitive energy costs.
Producing the first series model acts as the first decisive marker prior to deploying pilot farms, and then commercial farms. Both partners are positioned to become the leaders in a new French industrial sector which will ultimately be open for export.
“This partnership will encourage the emergence of a floating wind energy sector that will create jobs in France throughout those coastal areas where the farms will be installed. Our agreement is the world’s first-ever partnership between a naval architect and an energy-sector player who has already demonstrated the performance of a high-power wind turbine,” commented DCNS Marine Energy and Infrastructures Division Director Thierry Kalanquin.
DCNS is a world leader in the naval defence industry and an innovator in the energy sector. As a world-class high-tech company, the Group’s turnover is €3.4 billion and it employs 13,600 people.
For more information, please visit: http://www.alstom.com/press-centre/2014/10/alstom-and-dcns-get-together-to-found-a-sector-of-excellence-in-the-floating-wind-energy-business/
Driver shortages: Why the industry needs to be worried
While driver shortages are a global problem, with a recent survey from the International Road Transport Union suggesting that driver shortages are expected to increase by 25% year-on-year across its 23 member countries, the issue has very much made itself felt for UK businesses in recent weeks.
A perfect storm of factors, which many within the industry have been wary of, and warning about, for months, have led to a situation wherein businesses are suddenly facing significant difficulties around transporting goods to shelves on time, as well as inflated operating costs for doing so.
What’s more, the public may also see price rises as a result due to demand outmatching supply for certain product lines, which in turn brings with it the risk of customer dissatisfaction and a hit to brand and stakeholder reputation. Given that this price inflation has been speculated to hit in October, when the extended grace period on Brexit customs checks comes to an end, the worst may be yet to come.
"Steps must be taken to make a career in the industry a more attractive proposition for younger drivers, which will require a joint effort from government, industry bodies, and the sector as a whole"
That said, we have already been hearing reports of service interruption due to lack of driver availability, meaning that volumes aren’t being transported, or delivered, to required schedules and lead times. A real-world example of this occurred on the weekend of 4-6 June with convenience retailer Nisa, with deliveries to Nisa outlets across the UK affected by driver shortages to its logistics provider DHL.
But where has this skills shortage stemmed from?
Supply is the primary issue. Specifically, the number of available EU drivers has decreased by up to 15,000 drivers due to Brexit alone, and this has been further exacerbated by drivers returning to their home country during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as changes to foreign exchange rates making UK a less desirable place to live and work. This, alongside the recent need to manage IR35 tax changes, has also led to significant inflation in driver and transport costs.
COVID-19 complications have also meant that there have been no HGV driver tests over the past year, meaning the expected 6,000-7,000 new drivers over the past year have not appeared. With the return of the hospitality sector we understand that this is a significant challenge with, for instance, order delivery lead times being extended.
It is little surprise, therefore, that the Road Haulage Association (RHA) earlier this month became the latest in a long line of industry spokespeople to write to the government about the driver shortage for trucks. The letter echoed the view held by much of the industry, that the cause of this issue is both multi-faceted and, at least in some aspects, long-standing.
So, many in the industry are in agreement as to the driving factors behind this crisis. But what can be done?
Simply enough, outside of businesses completely reorganising their supply chain network, external support is needed. In the short-term, the government should consider providing the industry with financial aid, and this can also be supported more widely with legislative change.
Specifically, immigration policy could be updated to place drivers on the shortage occupations list, which would go some way towards easing the burden created by foreign drivers returning to their home countries. Looking elsewhere, government should also look for ways to increase the availability of HGV driver tests after the blockage created by the coronavirus lockdowns.
Looking more long-term, steps must be taken to make a career in the industry a more attractive proposition for younger drivers, which will require a joint effort from government, industry bodies, and the sector as a whole. As it stands, multiple sources suggest that the average age of truck drivers in the UK is 48, with only one in every hundred drivers under the age of 25. We must therefore do more to increase the talent pipeline coming into the industry if we are to offset more significant skills shortages further down the line.
On the back of a turbulent year for the supply chain industry, it has become increasingly clear that the long-foretold shortage of drivers is now having a tangible and, in places, crippling effect on supply chains.
Drivers, and the wider supply chain industry, have rightly been recognised for the seismic role they played in keeping the nation moving and fed over the past year under unprecedented strain. If this level of service is to continue, we must now see Government answer calls to provide the support the sector needs, and work hand-in-hand with the industry to find a solution. If we do not see concrete action to this effect soon, we are likely to be in for a turbulent few months.
Rob Wright is executive director at SCALA, a leading provider of management services for the supply chain and logistics sector