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Offshore


The vessels that make up an operations and maintenance fleet are crucial for any wind farm.


positive qualities. The environmental impact is an important factor for those with skin in the game.


Bigger boats needed “It’s impossible to underestimate their importance,” starts James Lewis, a business sector lead at BMT. “The vessels that make up an operations and maintenance fleet are the lifeblood of any wind farm.” That relationship, Lewis continues, begins with construction.


“There is a constant requirement for both planned and unplanned maintenance of the turbine. This ensures an optimum output in terms of energy generation, and also for the preservation and maintenance of these valuable assets.”


James Lewis $2.6bn


Forecasted value of global market for installation vessels by 2025, up 15% on 2020. Market Watch


12


Turbines are generally carried out to the development site aboard enormous crane ships, with the biggest examples capable of lifting 3,000t of equipment to a height of 165m, or the equivalent of 1,100 SUVs according to one Bloomberg report. Costing a colossal $300m apiece, it’s no wonder that there are only about a dozen of these vessels anywhere in the world.


After construction, at any rate, comes the maintenance regime, which involves the use of speedy crew transfer vessels (CTVs) to whisk engineers to the site as and when they’re needed. “There is a constant requirement for both planned and unplanned maintenance of the turbine,” says Lewis, covering everything from investigating storm damage and the need for repairs, to checking that the machines are running optimally. “This ensures an


optimum output in terms of energy generation, and also for the preservation and maintenance of these valuable assets.”


Skyrocketing demand for new offshore wind developments, however, promises to complicate this straightforward process. According to Graham Tyson, a marine specialist at MHI Vestas, operators are struggling to christen new vessels fast enough to keep pace with market interest, forcing them and their suppliers to repurpose similar vessels from the oil and gas sector, and sometimes even civilian ferries. The performance and size of these ships is often inadequate.


Fuel efficiency is also a problem. “These compromises were necessary in the early days of the concept,” says Tyson, “but as we look to support more and larger projects, these small inefficiencies really add up.”


Given the recent surge of investment in offshore wind, that latter point feels doubly important. According to work by the US’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the worst offenders among crew transfer vessels emit 648g/CO2


for every


kilowatt-hour of fuel burned. Regular passenger cars belch out less than half that. In a different way, the fauna around wind farms can suffer too. Whales are particularly vulnerable here, one survey finding that collisions with ships off the coast of California killed ten of our finned cousins in 2018 alone.


Mercator projection


When it was christened back in 2017, the Esvagt Mercator – built by Esvagt, a Danish manufacturer, for MHI Vestas – heralded a new dawn for offshore maintenance. A service-operation vessel (SOV), this new ship was midway in size between an installation vessel and a transfer ship, and allowed maintenance crews to essentially live at sea for


World Wind Technology / www.worldwind-technology.com


BMT


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