In the quest for rapid development and growth of the offshore wind sector, everyone from equipment manufacturers to marine construction companies, ports and operators must learn to work with ever larger and more powerful WTGs. This can create several challenges, which leading organisations such as DEME Offshore are looking to overcome with experience and innovation. Ahead of RenewableUK’s Ports & Vessels webinar on Wednesday 26 May exploring “vessel support for offshore wind operations”, Ian Taylor, UK & Ireland Area Manager for DEME Offshore, considers some of the main technical, commercial and supply chain challenges being faced in the sector right now.
From a technical perspective, it is becoming increasingly difficult to predict what size components will be need to be installed in the next 6-7-plus years, given the speed of market development. As projects move further offshore and often into deeper water, the installation equipment they require must evolve and adapt as well. To meet changing technical requirements, investment is essential, but this has to be balanced so as to ensure it is cost-effective in the long-term. Different marine contractors will address this in their own ways – some becoming more specialist in one area, and some still looking to offer cutting-edge technology solutions for the complete scope of works.
At DEME Offshore, we invested in a state-of-the-art floating offshore vessel – the Orion – to provide a more effective and competitive solution to meet these challenges.. Both vessel and crew need to work effciently to ensure safe, effective and time-efficient installations under all site conditions offshore. We have performed meticulous wave tank testing of the vessel and even built a virtual reality simulation environment to assess workflows and enable operators to familiarise themselves with the technology prior to actual execution of the project. This type of preparation is key to maintaining high health and safety standards, even in difficult sea and weather conditions.
Of course, for companies to commit to this level of innovation, commercial aspects must be satisfied. We know there is a global market for marine construction in offshore wind for the next 5-10 years, with forecasts suggesting significant further growth and supporting the business case for investment. For success, this must be combined with a robust technical solution and confidence in delivery – something that only comes with experience. A higher level of quality and long-term value is always worth investing in.
This may also help to avoid potential supply chain challenges in the years ahead. With rapid expansion of the sector, the supply chain could come under substantial pressure. Bottlenecks in vessel availability, vessel component availability and in the supply of monopiles could all be possible. In an ideal scenario, these issues could be mitigated by developers coordinating their construction programmes. In the real world, we shall likely have to rely on early engagement and even commitment between developers and the supply chain to enable suppliers to more confidently and efficiently plan for the future.
This, of course, only a snapshot of the challenges to be overcome in the upscaling and development marine construction alongside offshore wind. For more ideas and further discussion on the topic, don’t miss Wednesday’s webinar at 10am. Register here.