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Offshore wind goes deeper, bigger and with more power

Mon 10 Apr 2017

Offshore wind goes deeper, bigger and with more power

The opening session of the Offshore Wind Journal conference in London highlighted some of the many developments taking place in what is a dynamic sector

Chris Anderson, chief executive at 4C Offshore said that China is investing heavily in offshore wind and now has the third largest installed capacity after the UK and Germany. But so far China is the only country in Asia with an established development pipeline for offshore wind. Western Europe is still by far the most advanced in terms of projects in operation or under development. He commented that there is a lot of potential in the US but so far only one commercial scale project. It is unclear what the policy of the new Trump administration will be for offshore wind.

Mr Anderson told the conference that worldwide there are 26 projects in the pre-construction phase with total capacity of 8.64GW. Currently total power capacity from installed offshore wind is about 14GW and will exceed 20GW by 2020. Turbines are getting bigger and more powerful and he predicted there will be 10MW turbines by the early 2020s. Most current new projects are in waters of about 35m to 40m deep, but some are starting to go further offshore and into deeper water which will require upgraded support vessels.

He said that as the industry expands more vessels will be needed for turbine construction, installation work and ongoing maintenance.

Bart Willems, commercial director at MPI Offshore pointed out the technology trends. Offshore windfarms are operating in increasing water depths with most new projects in the 35m to 40m range, but some are deeper. He said the upper limit for fixed installations is about 70m, beyond which floating installations would be needed.

Turbines are getting bigger and foundation plates getting stronger and heavier. All these developments are placing increasing demands on support vessels, Mr Willems told the conference. There will be a need for bigger vessels to handle bigger equipment. But at the same time operators are under growing pressure to reduce costs.

Roman Grebe, managing partner at F3O Offshore Services outlined the challenges for operations and maintenance as the offshore wind sector grows, particularly in relation to the two main dedicated vessel types involved, crew transfer vessels (CTVs) and service operation vessels (SOVs).

He said the most significant growth will be in the SOV market as these vessels are still fairly new. “We are still on a learning curve as to how best to use these vessels.” Designs are still evolving as operators gain more experience. “The design of SOVs will develop further. There is still significant improvement potential for vessel performance.” Mr Grebe said that a lot more technology is being installed onboard in terms of gangways, cranes, daughter crafts, machinery and propulsion. “There will be more focus on cargo handling equipment.”

Peter Robert, director of business development and market intelligence at Damen Shipyards spoke about the pros and cons of vessel conversions and newbuilds. He told delegates that the advantage of conversions is the immediate availability of tonnage and current low secondhand prices of OSVs in the oil and gas sector, and the lead time is shorter. However, disadvantages include that ship layouts may need extreme re-working, impose physical constraints and face a challenge in complying with new regulations.

Presentations of case studies on new projects included Martijn de Jong, chief designer, ship design & systems at Rolls-Royce Marine on a next generation windfarm SOV; and Bram Lembregts, deputy managing director, Ulstein on its SOUL self-propelled heavy lift jack-up vessel designed for handling future requirements for installing bigger wind turbines.