Classification society DNV GL is anticipating fast growth in the offshore wind industry in the US and in demand for service operation vessels
Analyses of the energy mix in the US in coming decades in DNV GL’s Energy Transition Outlook (ETO) suggest that wind power is set to play a much greater role. By 2050, the world’s largest consumer of energy will be obtaining much more of its electricity from wind.
And that fact will have profound implications for the offshore and marine industries in the US, because, as DNV GL maritime business development manager Nick Prokopuk tells Offshore Wind Journal, “by 2050, almost a quarter of our energy could be coming from wind, and much of that will be offshore wind.”
The ETO forecasts that although onshore wind is far more important to the US now, by 2050 there will be a 70:30 split in capacity between onshore and offshore wind. “Offshore wind is set to grow very quickly in the US,” says Mr Prokopuk, “and with that growth will come a lot of demand for vessels.”
Mr Prokopuk has analysed offshore wind growth in other markets and has some interesting comments to make on lessons learned and what kind of vessels the US market will need. In Europe, the early days of offshore wind saw small crew transfer vessels (CTVs) used to transfer windfarm technicians. In the US, Mr Prokopuk also sees a place for CTVs, but from the outset there will be significant potential for service operation vessels (SOVs), particularly purpose-designed and built SOVs.
Mr Prokopuk believes the number of times a vessel is required to transport technicians to a turbine every year is the nub of the issue. He cites figures of up to 30 visits per turbine per year. Of those many occasions when technicians need to be transported to a turbine, only a handful are planned visits. This scenario creates a strong argument for using SOVs, rather than many visits by CTVs. Vessels such as CTVs will have their place, he says, but he highlights the many advantages of the SOV concept off the coast of the US.
“By 2025, we think there will be a need for up to three SOVs in the US market, but by the end of the decade we think 10 to 12, possibly even more US-flagged SOVs will be required,” he tells OWJ. In addition, 30-50 CTVs could be required to support the US offshore wind industry, along with many other types of vessel.
Apart from purpose-built SOVs, Mr Prokopuk sees opportunities for converting existing offshore vessels – of which there is a glut because of the downturn in the offshore oil and gas industry – although he believes that most vessels of this type used in the US market will, as is the case in Europe, be newbuilds.
“There are a lot of sizeable, capable offshore support vessels out there,” he explains. “I have seen a few cases where vessels have been looked at for conversion to SOVs, but in most cases the cost was quite significant, and the client – the windfarm operator – wasn’t keen on that solution. I think you will see some conversions from the existing fleet, but only as a short-term solution.
“Windfarm operators usually prefer a purpose-designed vessel rather than a conversion,” he concludes, “because of the kind of integrated warehousing they have on board, which provides quick and easy access to parts and tools, and stepless access to a turbine using a walk-to-work system, and because of the kind of green propulsion solutions new designs provide.”