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Engineers can help realize SDG7 by transitioning to wind sector

October 18, 2021

By Gregory Mirabella

offshore windfarm

Offshore wind provides opportunities for engineers who want to expand their skills and transition to clean energy

Caption: An offshore wind farm in the UK (Photo © Kapook2981)

Of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — a global framework for developing a better future for all by 2030 — SDG7: Affordable and Clean Energyopens in new tab/window is among those of most interest to engineers. In fact, Elsevier’s 2020 SDG Reportopens in new tab/window noted that, based on citation patterns, global research linked to SDG7 is most prominent in the areas of Engineering and Mathematics.

Millions of jobs on the horizon in wind energy

One form of clean energy enjoying the most attention and investment these days is wind power. Wind accounted for 11% of direct renewables employment in 2018, according to data from IRENAopens in new tab/window, which has also projected that there will be millions of new jobs in wind over the coming decade, many in technical and engineering roles. Civil, naval, energy, electric, electronic, mechanical, telecom and computer engineers are among the many kinds of engineers needed for wind projects.

A natural transition from O&G to wind

Where will all of this talent come from? Due to synergies between offshore oil and wind, moving from the O&G sector to wind projects is likely to be a natural transition for many engineers. Similar skills and knowledge are needed in both areas, so geoscientists and engineers accustomed to building offshore O&G structures could have the capabilities required to develop and build offshore windfarms.

Areas where there is overlap between wind and O&G include:

  • Site screening & assessment. The process of identifying opportunities by evaluating selected areas and identifying potential sites within those areas comes with the same expected outcomes. As an example, the geologic and geophysical assessments will lay the foundation of suitability of site for turbine location and identify potential engineering risks.

  • Foundations. Both the construction and decommissioning of offshore wind farm foundations are much like those of an oil or gas platform. For instance, both offshore wind turbines and offshore O&G projects often require the building of floating structures like a tension-leg platforms, which are designed for water depths of around 1,000 to 5,000 feet.

  • Substation structures. There are significant similarities between offshore wind substations and O&G platforms and accommodation modules. In offshore wind, many substation structures are designed at a similar scale to oil and gas projects, and both frequently depend on the expertise of professionals with offshore marine engineering credentials.

  • Steelwork. There is a high degree of synergy in the types of fabrication that both sectors use, with many common standards and certifications.

  • Array cables. Requirements differ slightly between sectors, but most O&G suppliers are capable of supplying offshore wind projects without much investment.

  • Cable installation. Many oil and gas suppliers have successfully diversified into offshore wind, and cable manufacturers like Nexans and Prysmian operate in both sectors.

The synergy between wind and O&G is further accentuated when you take a look at the makeup of the personnel working on the development of an offshore wind farmopens in new tab/window. Just in the planning and procurement stages, there are more than 30,000 person-days expended — and between 32% and 50% of the workforce are engineering or technical professionals.

Enhancing your knowledge of renewable energy

Whether planning a move from oil and gas or from a different sector entirely, engineers will still need to expand and refine their understanding of renewables technologies. Key to this effort is the ability to easily access reliable, up-to-date information resources with the data and insights needed for engineering professionals to stay on top of technical developments as they make the career shift to this sector. Comprehensive geoscience and engineering knowledge solutions, such as Knovel, can help fill the knowledge gap so professionals are able to make better informed decisions and improve outcomes.

Opportunities for innovation are in the wind

From determining suitable locations for wind turbines to designing them, engineers are crucial to continued development in wind. Onshore wind is already thriving (think of the turbines dotting landscapes around the globe), and offshore wind is forecast for exponential growth over the next few decades, so it is a great area of opportunity for ambitious engineers. And wind not only presents exciting career possibilities, it also offers engineers the chance to use their skills to advance the sustainable development goal of clean technology so we can have a safer, healthier planet for everyone.

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Portrait photo of Gregory Mirabella


Gregory Mirabella

Senior Manager for Portfolio Marketing - Engineering portfolio