Installing larger offshore wind turbines could become a challenge for operators as demand will outstrip the availability of suitable vessels by 2024, a new Rystad Energy analysis suggests. Rystad cautioned that operators will need to invest in new vessels or upgrade existing ones to install the super-sized turbines that are likely to become the norm by the end of the decade, or the pace of offshore wind installations could slow down.

The demand for installation vessels for turbines greater than 9 MW, which was non-existent in 2019, would increase dramatically by the end of the decade, reaching 62 vessel years in 2030. Only a few units in the existing fleet of purpose-built vessels can install 10 MW+ turbines, and none can currently install 14 MW+ turbines. This should improve by 2025 when newbuilds begin to arrive and current vessels receive crane upgrades, according to Rystad. In addition to the purpose-built vessels, some semisub heavy lift vessels are being proposed for turbine installation. Heerema has said that its heavy lift pair is already capable of mounting 15 MW+ turbines and, with minor modifications, could potentially install 20 MW units.

Vessels built earlier this decade are already becoming obsolete as turbine technology advances, making owners hesitant to commit to costly newbuilds that may become outdated before they are profitable. The cost of building an installation vessel capable of installing 14 MW+ turbines runs between $300m and $500m, but owners are opting for even larger cranes to remain competitive for longer. A 1,500 tonne crane capacity with a lifting height of 150 m is typically deemed necessary for installing 14 MW+ turbines. Taking current outstanding orders into account, and omitting vessels anticipated to be working primarily in China, all 11 vessels are installing cranes weighing more than 2,000 tonnes, with some opting for 3,000 tonnes, noted Rystad.

“When turbines were smaller, installation could be handled by the first-generation fleet of offshore wind vessels or converted jackups from the oil and gas industry. However, as operators continue to favor larger turbines, a new generation of purpose-built vessels is required to meet demand,” said Martin Lysne, Rystad Energy rigs and vessels analyst.


Author: Adis Ajdin