Shaping a sustainable society for generations to come
CEO of Net Zero Industry Wales (NZIW), Ben Burggraaf, says his ambition is to make Wales the country of choice for green goods and services. And he believes the manufacture and fabrication of Floating Offshore Wind (FLOW) structures and the power they generate could be Wales’s biggest economic advantage since the closure of the coal mines.
“Net zero requires companies, local authorities, the regulators and communities to work together to shape a green economy,” he said. “Wales is a small nation – if there’s one place we can make it happen, it’s here.”
Ben was talking on the latest episode of Tata Steel’s “SteelCast” podcast, live from the country’s largest steelworks in Port Talbot, where he used to work.
Laying out his vision, Ben described where NZIW fits in the business landscape: “We are not here to lobby governments for more funding, but to help deploy and execute those plans which have been developed individually and collectively.”
“We have a huge potential in the Celtic Sea to develop floating offshore wind (FLOW) at a scale that is over 20GW. That is enough to replace most of the fossil fuels we use in Wales and become a new abundant source of energy which could power future generations.
“We haven’t seen that sort of advantage in Wales
since the closure of the coal mines.”
Looking out to sea from the Port Talbot steelworks, Ben sees the untapped potential of renewable energy in the Celtic Sea: He commented: “Here there is the only local deep-water harbour, and Port Talbot absolutely has the capacity to develop local manufacturing and fabrication capability.
“95% of offshore wind potential is associated with FLOW: at least 4GigaWatts (GW) will be deployed by 2030, but there is potential for another 20GW beyond that. Some studies are even suggesting there is the potential to generate 50-100GW in the Celtic Sea.
“We could see 80 to 100 structures the size of the Eiffel Tower being launched from here at the rate of two a week – that’s three times the height of a Blast Furnace!”
Ben added: “I think that to hit the 2030 target, Wales will initially have to deploy carbon capture and storage technology with our existing assets. That buys us some time to develop hydrogen production at scale, and in parallel upgrade our electricity grid infrastructure - then you can move into fuel switching, to enable Welsh industry to fully benefit from the FLOW potential.
“Of course, the use of Hydrogen is nothing new to the steel industry – 65% of the process gases from the Coke Ovens here is hydrogen.”
And referring to the way in which the steel industry reuses its process gases, Ben says it is a model for future energy systems: “In the steelworks, pretty much all of your gases are recycled either directly as fuel for your processes or to generate electricity in the power plant. Similar challenges will come for society when we have a combination of energy sources that we have to use in the best ways possible.”
But Ben is pragmatic enough to realise there is no silver bullet to the climate change problem. He said: “The South Wales industrial Cluster (SWIC) developed a plan to reduce carbon emissions by 16 million tonnes by 2040 (which would equate to 40% of emissions in Wales) but requires £30 billion over 15 years! And that’s on top of Floating Offshore Wind, electrical infrastructure and hydrogen. That is a level of investment in Wales not seen for generations.”
“What’s more, that will require a lot of steel. The challenge for industry and governments is to find a way of making that in a low carbon way.”
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