Winds of change in the offshore sector
With over 80% of the world’s wind farms located within the European Union and Norway, the region is driving the development of the offshore wind energy market as the fastest growing of all of the so-called blue economy sectors.
Trade body WindEurope reports an 18% expansion in Europe’s offshore wind energy capacity in 2018 alone, and the continuing growth has encouraged a rapidly maturing sector for specialist maritime vessels and services. Today, Europe has 105 offshore wind farms off the coasts of 11 countries, with a total capacity of 18.5 GW. Of this, 2.6 GW was added last year, as 15 new wind farms came onstream.
The size and scale of offshore wind installations continues to increase, meaning that the potential scale economies are more attractive but that technical and in-field service challenges are also on the rise. The challenges and their solutions are a specific focus for Europort 2019, according to Raymond Siliakus, Europort Exhibition Manager.
"It’s a strong market but it’s also one increasingly demanding special ships that add value, which is a core Europort focus. We have been a key meeting point for this part of the maritime industries ever since it emerged as a distinct sector and that has made Europort the first port of call for windfarm vessel innovators.”
The need to anticipate ever larger wind turbines was recently highlighted by Jan de Nul through its order for massive new vessel, Voltaire, with an unrivalled crane capacity of over 3,000 tonnes. This ship, which is due delivery in 2020, has been conceived with the offshore wind farms of the future in mind.
But small also needs to be beautiful where offshore windfarm vessel design, especially when it comes to turbine maintenance. Damen recently received a new order for its state-of-the-art Fast Crew Supplier (FCS) 2710 vessel from High Speed Transfers (HST) - one of the newer entrants into the European wind farm crew transfer sector.
"There is strong demand from the offshore wind sector for crew transfer vessels that are efficient and economical, and which deliver their personnel in good shape ready to start work,” commented HST managing director Tom Nevin.
If wind power is making the running, Europort 2019 has also factored in the way other sources of renewable energy are at last becoming part of offshore industry plans rather than aspirations, according to Siliakus.
"According to the European Union’s Blue Growth strategy, wave and tidal energy could meet up to 10% of the EU’s electricity demand by 2050,” he says. "To generate both wind and ocean-related energy in a timely and cost efficient manner, further innovation in ship designs and related technology are essential.”
Highly topical will be the Europort Masterclass sessions 'Maritime solutions for offshore renewable energy’, which take place at the Ahoy Centre on 6th November. The Masterclass will in particular assess the emerging business opportunities for companies currently operating in the traditional oil and gas market in the ocean energy sectors. Initiatives to cut costs and increase efficiency in the sector will also be discussed.