[01 February 2024]

Climate change is accelerating. We’re driving the race to net zero.

Gathering more than 100 offshore wind specialists, the Aura Innovation Centre became a hub of activity in January as it hosted the Aura Centre for Doctoral Training’s annual conference: The Acceleration of Offshore Wind Targets. 

Ground-breaking research was shared by the talented Aura CDT postgraduate researchers giving them a platform to speak in front of industry professionals and colleagues, and delegates were inspired by panellists who were challenged to consider where the offshore wind industry will be in 2040? 

Aura CDT Director, Prof Rob Dorrell said: 

“It’s been fantastic to see our Aura CDT students presenting their innovative research throughout the conference. We’ve also been really fortunate to have a wide range of people from industry give presentations and join in with the rest of the conference and we’re grateful to them all for their enthusiastic involvement.” 

The Aura CDT is led by the University’s Energy and Environment Institute, in partnership with the Universities of Durham, Newcastle and Sheffield. Students and academics from each of those institutions and more were represented at the conference, as well as speakers from key industry bodies. 

The Aura CDT welcomed a fantastic range of guest speakers presenting offshore wind industry insights and innovations. The final conference session was a panel discussion, chaired by Aura CDT Deputy Director, Prof Jim Gilbert who challenged our panellists to consider “what will the offshore wind industry look like in 2040”. Thanks go out to all the guest speakers, as well as the Aura CDT academic and student presenters: 

  • Natascha Engel, CEO of Palace Yard 
  • Andrew Elmes Head of Net Zero at Siemens Energy 
  • Andrew Jenkins, CEO and founder of Kinewell Energy Ltd 
  • Kimberley Lloyd, Consultant, Howell Marine Consulting & EcoWind Programme 
  • Victoria Metheringham, Head of Marine Biodiversity Science and Monitoring, DEFRA Marine and Fisheries Directorate 
  • Tom Nightingale, North East Stakeholder Manager, Equinor 
  • Marie Renner Head of Renewables EDF Energy  
  • Niall Tracey, Online Surveyor, GEOxyz & Aura CDT Alumnus 
  • Katherine York, Operations & Maintenance Manager, ORE Catapult. 

Katharine York of the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult said that the Aura CDT conference had

“given me the chance to see my industry through different eyes. People are really thinking about the legacy, people are asking what happens next.” 

She added that

“Aura CDT students ask brilliant questions, there’s a fearlessness in you – keep that up.” 

This year, the winner of the best presentation was Cohort 3 student Enora Lecordier. Her research utilises satellite data and remote sensing to assess the potential for colocation of aquaculture with offshore wind energy farms. 

Winner of the best student poster was Cohort 2 student Maisy Bradbury, who is working with HRWallingford on mitigation of scour around wind turbine bases – an issue that can cause disruption to power lines.  

As well as presenting at the conference, a number of Aura CDT students also took on the role of session chair, introducing guest speakers and fielding questions from the audience. Particular thanks go to Nilotpal Dhar, Nicholas Wilson and Daniel Whitt, who were also heavily involved in the organisation of the event.