Offshore wind energy could run up against a shortage of vessels
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Within a few years, the available fleet of suitable vessels may prove insufficient for the development of the offshore wind industry, according to energy analysts Rystad Energy.

    As wind energy fluorishes, demand will increase for specialised vessels needed to install wind turbines and that increase in demand will quickly determine how strong the market is for those vessels. By 2025, their numbers will fall short and that will open up opportunities for use in the wind energy industry of specialised ships and repurposed vessels from the gas and oil industry.

    Analysts forecast that by 2030 demand for installation vessels will be four to five times greater than at present. The world fleet of vessels now stands at 32 for installing turbines and 14 dedicated vessels for foundations.

    Another 10 vessels are at various stages of completion.

    “For the past few years, this has effectively resulted in a relatively oversupplied market, especially in Europe,” Rystad said in a note on the state of this aspect of the industry. “However, the scale is clearly expected to tip towards an undersupply of installation vessels by the mid-2020s.”

    Even more alarming, there are currently only four vessels capable of working with turbines of the next generation — due to be made available in 2021.

    As technology advances, future wind turbines are expected to get even bigger and the existing fleet of vessels is not likely to have enough capacity to install them.

    In 2005, the average offshore wind turbine had a capacity of 3 MW. New projects due to come on stream in 2022 will require turbines with a capacity greater than 6 MW.

    In the wind energy industry, installation of turbines and foundations are the most costly aspects of setting up an installation – accounting for 20-30 % of capital expenditure.

    Turbines in the wind industry started to become larger in 2014-2015. And those first involved in the market of vessels for installation were able to optimise their fleets for turbines, but the world now finds itself needing ever-larger vessels to do the job.

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