Offshore Wind Install Capacity to Tighten

(Global) Vessel Orders, Conversions Needed, Rystad Says

Offshore wind’s burgeoning market is generating such need for specialized installation vessels to install the growing components that the global fleet will fall short of meeting demand after 2025, according to Rystad Energy analysis.

Meeting that demand will require more specialized vessel orders and converting other oil and gas heavy-lift vessels, the energy research firm said.

There are 32 active turbine installations vessels, with five on order, and 14 dedicated foundation vessels, with another five ordered. While that has equated to an oversupplied market in recent years, especially in Europe, it will lead to undersupply by the mid- 2020s and vessel demand four to five times higher by 2030, Rystad Energy said.

Beyond overall capacity, there are only four vessels capable of handling the next-generation turbines that are expected to be commercially available in 2021. As technology advances and turbines become larger, it will further outstrip vessel capacity to install them.

“We identify the heavy-lift vessel segment as the key bottleneck for offshore wind development from the middle of this decade, and the need for next generation vessels may slow the cost reductions expected in offshore wind,” said Alexander Fl√łtre, Rystad Energy’s product manager for offshore wind.

New offshore wind projects expected to be operational by 2022 will have an average turbine size of 6.1 megawatts, more than double the aver­age offshore turbine capacity in 2005, the research firm said. The increasing cost efficiencies of the larger turbines will be favored over smaller equipment in current offshore wind farms.

Much of the existing fleet, con­verted from their original purpose of installing and decommissioning large oil and gas platforms, have incredible lifting capacities. However, most off­shore wind projects require transit and accurate positioning at least 100 to 300 times in quick succession, and the con­versions are inefficient in these tasks.

Beyond turbine and foundation manufacturing, installation is the most capital-intensive process, covering 20 percent to 30 percent of capital expen­diture. That could add up to US$800 million to US$1 billion for a 1-gigawatt project comprised of 100 turbines, Rystad Energy estimated.