As turbines grow in size, few vessels in the worldwide fleet can accommodate them.

Large wind power installations offshore the United States and around the globe are growing in size and scope. Also growing is the size of the turbines being used to power renewable electricity. This state of affairs may soon pose a problem, unless the fleet of vessels capable of installing these giant offshore wind turbines grows substantially.

In the U.S., the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) last year represented “a game changer” for the U.S. wind industry, said Marcelo Ortega, a renewables analyst at Rystad Energy, a research firm headquartered in Oslo. “The tax credits in the bill for capital investments and production are designed to build and strengthen a domestic supply chain by encouraging domestic manufacturing and raw material sourcing from the U.S. or countries with a free trade agreement.”

VARD OSCVs for Norwind Offshore

Bigger Blades and the Supply Chain

But one supply-chain element not addressed in the IRA involves the growing size of offshore wind turbines being deployed and its impact on the required capabilities for installation vessels. According to a Rystad Energy report, the average capacity of wind turbines globally, outside of China, has grown from three megawatts in 2010 to 6.5 megawatts now, with 10 megawatts being the largest in current operation. Turbines larger than eight megawatts accounted for 3% of global installations between 2010 and 2021; Ryland forecasts that proportion will surge to 53% by 2030.

Today’s offshore wind projects are increasingly calling for 15-megawatt turbines. In the U.S., Empire Wind, located offshore Long Island, will be generating a capacity of over two gigawatts with the installation of 138 15-megawatt wind turbine generators. In the United Kingdom, the Hornsea 3 project, 75 miles off the coast of Norfolk, will have a capacity of nearly 3 gigawatts, and will consist of 231 15-megawatt offshore wind turbines. The Nordseecluster project, in the German North Sea, with a capacity of 1.6 gigawatts, will require the installation of 104 offshore wind turbines, also of 15-megawatt capacity.

“As operators continue to favor larger turbines,” the Rystad report said, “a new generation of purpose-built vessels is required to meet demand.”

Only a handful of vessels worldwide can currently install turbines of over ten megawatts. According to Rystad, the demand for offshore wind will outpace the supply of capable vessels as early as next year, as “demand for offshore wind turbine installation vessels worldwide, excluding China, will rocket from 11 vessel years in 2021 to almost 79 vessel years by 2030. The need for installation vessels for turbines larger than 9 megawatts, which was nonexistent in 2019, will grow significantly by the end of the decade and reach 62 vessel years in 2030.”

The turbines at both Hornsea 3 and the Nordseecluster will be installed by Havfram Wind, an offshore wind construction company headquartered in Oslo, which will, in both cases, be using a newly built NG20000X Jack-Up Wind Turbine Installation vessel…

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