More Than 100 New Offshore Wind Vessels Needed by 2030 to Meet Demand

June 30, 2021
Bartolomej Tomic, Offshore Engineer

Over 100 new offshore wind turbine and foundation installation and maintenance vessels will be required for offshore projects planned over the next decade, as the number of proposed projects grows, but also as the turbines and foundations get larger, meaning the currently available fleet won't be able to install them. What is more, most of the current fleet could become obsolete by 2025. This is according to a new study by World Energy Reports.

"We see that demand [for the offshore wind vessels by 2030] will not be supplied by the existing fleet. New installation vessels or upgrades of existing vessels are required. This presents a $10 billion-plus opportunity for engineering firms, shipbuilders and conversion yards, equipment suppliers, service providers, and those who finance marine assets," Philip Lewis, Director of Research, World Energy Reports told Offshore Engineer TV's Greg Trauthwein in an interview.

First, per Lewis, the demand for offshore wind vessels, of various types, will be driven by government support linked to energy transition policies and then by off-grid demand to support the electrification of the wider economy.

"From 32GW of installed capacity at the end of 2020, we forecast a global capacity of 235GW by 2030, of which 226GW is expected to be bottom-fixed," Lewis said.

20,000 new bottom-fixed turbines. Current fleet obsolete by 2025

Lewis says that the bottom-fixed capacity additions through 2030 will be achieved with 20,000 new wind turbine installations. More than 95% of these will be on steel monopiles and jackets.

He also pointed out that future installations would call for new capacities and capabilities, and that almost all of the current fleet of international wind turbine installation vessels (WTIVs) will be technically redundant as installation vessels by 2025, as the wind turbine components grow bigger.

"The speed of technology change has been rapid. From 3-4MW turbines at the beginning of the last decade to 8-10MW turbines today and 12-15MW turbines from 2022-2024. We anticipate that the next evolution of turbine will be 20MW units towards the end of the decade," Lewis said.

Providing color on what the larger turbines mean for installation vessel requirements and capabilities, Lewis said: "Bigger power output comes from the bigger swept area resulting from larger rotor diameters. This means longer and heavier blades. These blades need support by larger hubs and the whole power train in the nacelle will become bigger and heavier.

"A taller and heavier wind turbine tower is a result of the longer blades and heavier components. The tower sits on a foundation that needs to be bigger to support the increased loads from the larger turbine."

According to Lewis, only one of today’s WTIV fleet can install the next generation 12-14MW turbines without upgrading.

Interestingly, a Danish company named Cadeler on Wednesday ordered two next-gen wind turbine installation vessels. Cadeler said that the new X-class wind turbine installation vessels will, per load, be able to transport and install seven complete 15MW turbine sets or five sets of 20+ MW turbines, cutting down the number of trips needed for each project.

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