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Scale Enhancement May be Impeded for Offshore Wind Turbines from Lacking Special Purpose Vessels and Ports

published: 2022-04-25 9:30

Offshore wind turbines are transitioning towards the large-scale tendency in order to seek for larger power generation, where suppliers such as GE, Siemens Gamesa, Vestas, and Mingyang Smart Energy are successively engaging in the competition. However, this comes with numerous challenges as renovation may be necessary for existing technology, vessels, and ports.

As the US Department of Energy puts it, wind turbines are becoming larger in sizes so as to capture additional wind power, and that the longer blades and bigger rotors are to elevate wind area that would generate more electricity.

An increase in the scale of wind turbines can indeed elevate power generation and facilitate prolongation of the offshore wind power market, though it can also introduce some troublesome medium and long-term challenges. Wind turbines more than 8MW in capacity merely occupied 3% of global installed capacity between 2010 and 2021, however, the ratio is expected to surge to 53% by 2030.

The main factor lies on offshore wind power. Energy research and commercial intelligence firm Rystad Energy pointed out that installation vessels that accommodate larger wind turbines would experience a short supply in 2024, which is why operators would have to invest in new vessels or upgrade their existing models in order to respond to this particular future trend, or else the growth of offshore wind power is going to slow down as a result.

With that being said, special purpose vessels are not cheap. For instance, the 143m offshore wind power vessel Charybdis currently being built by US-based company Dominion Energy costs approximately US$500 million, and is capable of transporting new generation wind turbines at a capacity of more than 12MW. The demand for this type of vessels will only elevate incessantly in the future. 

According to the Rystad Energy’s analysis, there are only few vessels that can transport wind turbines more than 10MW, and there is no vessel capable of withholding wind turbines more than 14MW right now.

On the other hand, ports would have to also expand in order to accommodate larger offshore wind power vessels. WindEurope pointed out from its report in May 2021 that Europe has to invest EU€6.5 billion in ports before 2030 so as to support the expansion of offshore wind power, since the larger wind turbines and the constantly growing market have to be supported with upgrades in existing facilities or simply new variations.

WindEurope believes that land expansion, port solidification, improvement in deepwater terminals, and commencement of other civil engineering are also essential pertaining to ports. The recent report of GWEC also emphasizes the importance of ports because upgrades have become critical amidst increasing plans in offshore wind power and commercial floating wind power.

Experts are projecting increasing popularity among 17MW wind turbines by 2035, followed by a magnifying quantity of floating projects. These floating projects require a significant volume of ports for storage and installation, and that would naturally need wider and deeper ports, which also tests onshore traffic and transportations.

However, WindEurope also spoke bluntly that the lack of convenience infrastructures is also one of the main obstacles for the development of offshore wind power, and that the grids, transmission lines, logistics, highways, and ports of many countries are currently restricting the expansion of wind power, as well as strangling innovation in energy system transformation.

(Cover photo source: spunlash)

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