The Covid-19 pandemic is causing huge disruption to industries throughout the world. The UK Government is adopting all measures to tackle any adverse situation that might arise due to the ongoing spread of the virus. This includes The Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 that have been put in place to reduce the risk of further human-to-human transmission by keeping individuals in isolation. The government also issued a ‘Stay at home guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection’ on 12 March 2020. The number of coronavirus deaths in the UK rose by 563 between 5pm on 30 March 2020 and 5pm on 31 March 2020, bringing the total number to 2,352. At that point, this was the highest increase in the number of coronavirus-related deaths in a 24-hour period that the country had experienced. The risk level to the UK has been raised to ‘high’.
Globally, the UK has become the most eminent player in the offshore wind market with installed capacity growing from 1.34GW in 2010 to 9.97GW in 2019. The Covid-19 pandemic could make it harder to keep wind farms up and running. The energy demand in the UK went down by 13% the day after the UK Government announced the coronavirus lockdown. Travel bans, supply chain issues and deferred maintenance could dent the output of existing wind farms. So far, much of the focus has been factory shutdowns and the challenges of developing and building new projects on deadline in such times. Beyond travel bans, a shortage of engineering staff due to lockdown could delay critical O&M work at projects. Under normal circumstances, fixing a broken rotor or gearbox typically takes no longer than a month. But now, it could easily see up to six months of downtime on a particular turbine, which is actually quite significant for the wind industry as a whole because it is unheard of, to leave a turbine offline for that long.
The total annual installations for wind stood at 2.47GW in 2019. Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, annual installations were estimated at 1.22GW in 2020. After the outbreak, it is expected that the annual installations will reach 980MW in 2020. The availability of operating wind farm is expected to fall from the current average of 95% to around 85%.
In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK has revised the timetable for awarding rights to sites capable of supporting 7GW of offshore wind in its fourth leasing round. In addition, it has extended early phases of its tender to give participants more time and flexibility amid the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy had halted production to comply with the UK’s lockdown, running from 23 March 2020 to 12 April 2020, but resumed operations at its UK blade factory in Hull, north-east England on 1 April 2020. SGRE also said that it has put in place ‘stringent measures’ to protect staff, including carrying out thermal imaging checks for all entrants to the site and providing workers with personal protective equipment (PPE).