Erlend Christiansen is our Offshore Licensing Manager and also local to the proposed site for Codling Wind Park. He grew up in Wicklow Town and moved to Bray in 2016, after working on a variety of offshore projects all over the world. Read more about his career path to Codling Wind Park and the importance of his work.
What’s your role at Codling Wind Park?
I’m the Offshore Licensing Manager for the project, and my main focus over the last three years has been securing a range of marine consents and licences for the Codling Wind Park Project. This involved securing Foreshore Licenses, statutory sanctions and other marine consents that are required to enable site investigations and surveys to commence on the offshore site. The site investigations and offshore surveys are important as they are used to inform the project’s EIAR / consent application and are also used to inform the design of the offshore infrastructure.
What was your career path to Codling Wind Park?
My career began in the oil and gas industry. When I graduated with a BEng in Environmental Engineering from the University of Galway in 2009, we’d just gone into a recession! So I continued my studies and completed a Masters in Sustainable Energy Systems at the University of Edinburgh.
My first job was as an Offshore Supervisor in the oil and gas sector. I worked on the construction (jacket installations) of oil and gas platforms all over the world: from the North Sea to the Indian Ocean and Australia. I was also an offshore grouting supervisor during the jacket installations on Belgium’s Thornton Bank Phase 2. This was in 2012 and 2013 and was my first taste of offshore wind! I loved the travel. From an early age, I always wanted to work offshore; I did a lot of sailing from a young age – and my brothers and I navigated the waters around Africa and Europe on a sailing boat aged 23.
I switched to tidal energy after three years, working for an Irish company called Open Hydro. Here I led the marine operations for turbine installations in France, Canada, and the Orkney Islands. Then, after four years, I joined Eirgrid – Ireland’s transmission system operator.
I was the offshore lead for developing the Celtic Interconnector Project, which is a planned power link to allow the exchange of electricity between Ireland and France. Here, I was responsible for managing delivery of the offshore EIA, marine surveys, route optioneering, crossings, cable burial studies and fishing liaison. I was here for three years before joining Natural Power Consultants.
I joined Natural Power in 2020, and after a few weeks, I was seconded into Codling Wind Park – and I’ve been here ever since! There were only ten or so of us on the project back then; now there are over 60 on the team, and it has been great to see the project progress and expand so successfully.
What’s a typical day like in your role?
For the delivery of the Foreshore Licence, I managed a team of about 20 consultants at Natural Power, and they complete the assessments and documentation as part of the licence applications – writing environmental reports, developing our Natural Impact Statements and so on. So I spend a lot of time working with them to ensure our work schedule is complete and on track.
A lot of my time is spent engaging with government departments, stakeholders and statutory bodies (Ports, Harbours, NPWS, UAU, the Marine Institute, Sea Fishers Protection Agency, Commissioners of Irish Lights and so on). We want to keep them up to date with our plans and address any concerns they might have ahead of securing licences or permits for marine works. I work very closely with our legal advisers too.
Have you always been interested in renewables?
Definitely. At the age of 18, I chose to study Environmental Engineering to get into the renewables industry. From an engineering perspective, I always found the different technologies in renewables extremely fascinating. (Be it tidal, hydro, wave wind or solar).
It’s also very satisfying to be part of a project that’s leading the charge for offshore wind in Ireland. Codling Wind Park is a project that is helping us to achieve greater energy security and one that will significantly help Ireland to deliver our climate goals. This makes working in renewables very interesting.
Are there challenges in being one of the first projects?
Yes, there are always going to be challenges, especially as offshore wind is in its infancy in Ireland. But that’s also a privilege – these are the kinds of challenges I love to work on. We have a very strong team at Codling Wind Park, supported by consultants like Natural Power and Tobin, so we all pull together to make sure we overcome any of the challenges that we are faced with.
What’s special to you about Codling Wind Park?
I’m from Wicklow town – I grew up here. And I’ve moved back to the Wicklow area after working overseas. I live in Bray now with my wife and our three young girls, so this project is in our backyard; we live close to the seafront, and we will actually be able to see Codling Wind Park from my home. Although it sounds like a cliché, by working on Codling Wind Park, we are helping to safeguard the environment for our kids and future generations, and this makes me tremendously proud to be part of a team that is helping to achieve this.
What’s the best thing about your job?
The job diversity gives me great satisfaction, and I learn something new every day, either from my colleagues in the Codling project or from the wider industry, we’re also a very passionate and driven team, and I feel we all get on very well together – we always have great craic when we get together!!
Would you recommend a career in renewables to a young person?
Definitely. There are great opportunities in the offshore wind industry in Ireland and in renewables as a whole. There is currently a very strong market in Ireland, the UK and in Europe with strong commitment from governments to deliver their climate targets. With this commitment comes employment with a range of diverse and interesting employment opportunities. Looking forward, these opportunities will only increase.