Norway-headquartered Nekkar, formerly TTS Group, has secured funding from Innovation Norway to continue developing a new way to install wind turbines
Suitable for use with onshore and offshore wind turbines, the SkyWalker concept replaces a crane with a winch-based solution attached to the tower of a turbine.
Nekkar, which is working with an as yet undisclosed wind turbine original equipment manufacturer, Fred Olsen Renewables – a developer, owner and operator of renewable assets – and academia to develop SkyWalker, has been awarded a Nkr21.0M (US$2.5M) grant by Innovation Norway.
The company, which has a long history in the marine and offshore industries, believes the installation technology it is pioneering in the SkyWalker can significantly reduce the cost and environmental footprint associated with wind turbine installation.
SkyWalker uses active heave-compensation technology derived from offshore lifting systems combined with digital solutions that allow for remote-controlled, automated solutions. Unlike a crane, which lifts a nacelle or blades into place, SkyWalker winches them into position in a controlled manner.
Speaking exclusively to OWJ, Nekkar chief executive Preben Liltved said, “Conventional crane technology is increasingly challenged by larger and larger onshore wind turbines. This is also true in the offshore wind sector.
“Our calculations show that SkyWalker can significantly reduce the time, cost and environmental footprint associated with the installation of wind turbines.
“The great advantage of SkyWalker is it enables installation without a load being suspended from a crane. It enables a controlled lift that can handle heavier loads and reach greater heights than current crane solutions,” said Mr Liltved. “In addition, SkyWalker is being developed as a zero-emissions system.”
Eliminating the need for a load suspended from the hook of a crane will make SkyWalker less weather dependent, safer and easier to use than a crane on a vessel, he suggested.
Mr Liltved said the first application of the new installation system would be in the onshore wind market, “where developers have told us the need is most urgent.
“But SkyWalker is definitely also suitable for use offshore,” he explained, “and we are confident it can handle new-generation offshore wind turbines of 15-18 MW, lifting nacelles and blades for turbines of that size and weight.
“Testing the first SkyWalker on land will be easier and more straightforward than doing so offshore,” said Mr Liltved. “We expect to demonstrate the system on land in 2022.”
Nekkar head of renewables Metter Harv said, “SkyWalker is a great example of how we can leverage our legacy in oil and gas technology to create disruptive solutions for sustainable industries.
“Co-operating with a wind turbine OEM and Fred Olsen Renewables ensures our development work is fully aligned with the requirements of the wind energy industry.”
Fred Olsen Renewables business development manager Gaute Tjensvoll said, “SkyWalker is smaller and requires much less space than other installation solutions such as mobile cranes, so its environmental footprint on the ground is reduced. This is especially important for onshore sites in difficult terrain in Scandinavia.
“Another objective of the development of SkyWalker is to enable installation of wind turbines at locations where, currently, it is not practical or financially possible to develop windfarms. The technology also allows installation to take place in stronger winds than is possible today and will reduce the time it takes to install turbines.”
Once SkyWalker has been proven on land, Nekkar intends to develop versions of it that can be applied to the installation of bottom-fixed and floating offshore wind turbines. It plans to do so in a way that does not require turbines or components to be adapted.
“We firmly believe SkyWalker has the potential to become a game-changer for the global wind industry,” Ms Harv concluded. “We are grateful that Innovation Norway and our collaboration partners share this view.”