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Vision of Offshore Renewables in 2030

Tuesday 25th August 2020


THE NEXT DECADE

Throughout its 10-year history, CWind, part of the Global Marine Group, has been at the forefront of new technologies and innovative design ideas to advance the offshore renewables industry. When the business was conceived in 2010, offshore wind accounted for just 1% of global wind installations by capacity. Today, that figure stands at more than 10%. During this time, CWind has gone from being a small outfit in Colchester, Essex, providing Crew Transfer Vessels (CTVs) and temporary power to Ørsted at Gunfleet Sands offshore wind farm, to having a global footprint providing fleet and project services to the industry worldwide – leading the way in the innovation of solutions to industry challenges and opportunities.

Since the industry set its foundations in the 1990s it has grown exponentially, but the last 10 years in particular have proved transformational. What could be in store for the next 10? We share our view of the industry developments and company advances we could expect to see over the next decade.

EXTENDING ASSET LIFE

As advances are made in material science, we will see a solution to the problematic issue of corrosion protection (CP). CP is an integral part of the overall wind turbine design and is necessary to achieve the intended asset lifetime. Technologies such as thermal sprays of aluminium/zinc alloy could be the answer for the atmospheric zones and improved ventilation and water exchange could be further developed to de-risk solutions.

The design of more efficient substructures will minimise scour risk and ultimately reduce the demand for scour protection. Current methods reduce risk but increase the difficulty in the decommissioning of a farm and subsequent redevelopment, which is a natural part of the wind turbine lifecycle.

BETTER FORECASTING AND INTELLIGENCE TO IMPROVE EFFICIENCIES

Disruptive planning tools will accurately forecast the opportunity for safe access across a wind farm site that takes account for Metocean conditions at specific turbine locations. With advanced meteorological forecasting, route planning can be carried out to reduce turbine down time by offering more opportunities to service turbines safely. Maximised access will reduce weather downtime and ultimately reduce operational costs, leading to more safe, cost-effective and time-efficient operations in the future.

AUTONOMOUS OPERATIONS AND AI

Autonomous systems will become the norm for external inspections and repair of blades and subsea structures. This technology will replace the requirement for humans to conduct maintenance and repair and could reduce operating cost and health and safety incidents.

Regarding data gathering, developers will rely on their contractors, like CWind, maintaining a digital “twin” of the assets, with frequent, regular surveillance keeping the model updated.  This will be done in several ways, but mostly using a fusion of subsea and surface autonomous craft to keep costs low and quality high. The data acquired will be processed coarsely on site (‘edge processed’) using on-board computers, before being transmitted within minutes to CWind operational offices. This process quality assures the data in real-time using high performance computing in the cloud and compression algorithms to reduce latency.

The digital twin will be used to:

  1. Build familiarity. Technicians and personnel will use 3D models to visit the site before they step off dry land, becoming familiar with the task in a controlled environment to ultimately improve safety within the industry.
  2. Gain insights. The model will be used to simulate activities, check clashes and check operations, thereby gaining operational insights to improve efficiency and reduce unexpected costs.
  3. Improve live operations. Use of augmented reality, probably using Microsoft© HoloLens technology, (both for technicians and offshore personnel) will mean that operations are faster, more reliable and the likelihood of mistakes will be reduced.


UTILISING NEW AND EMERGING TECHNOLOGY

Transfer of equipment which cannot be manually handled safely will be both by crane operations and heavy lift drones. 

Both onshore and offshore there will be 3D printers, able to print both polymer and metal, to facilitate the manufacture of parts, tools and patches that are required. This will be necessary for blade repairs and spare parts which need replacing without maintaining a large, expensive store of equipment. 

ENTERING THE DECOMMISSIONING PHASE

By 2030 some windfarms will be in the decommissioning phase of their lifecycle which could present some challenges. It will be companies like CWind who will have the engineering expertise and reputation to provide solutions and have the in-house resource to support such works.

VESSELS

All vessels will be emissions free, using batteries and hydrogen fuel cells to achieve similar ranged vessels with superior performance and response time than today’s fossil fuelled Crew Transfer Vessels. Vessels will frequently use in-field charging, which will be ubiquitous, to top up batteries during idle periods to utilise cheap electricity offshore and reduce the reliance on shoreside refuelling.  Fossil fuels will be used only on older legacy vessels with hybrid drives, and these will be in the process of being phased out in favour of ‘clean’ vessels. 

Efficiencies will be further enhanced by machine learning. Sensors will be mounted on-board vessels, monitoring everything from engine performance, to where people are sitting, and which windows are open. Data will be collected and sent shoreside for fusion with environmental and operational information to feed into algorithms as a means of continuous improvement. Feedback will be supplied real-time to the vessel, providing insights of how to improve, such as proposing personnel are sat in a particular pattern, vessel heading modifications of 1-2 degrees or changing the HVAC configuration.  Where the results are positive, they will be repeated, if not, the artificial intelligence will learn that this combination was not the most effective. By aggregating marginal gains, significant savings will be achieved, and continual improvement demonstrated.

Transfer of personnel to turbines and substations will continue to be by both Crew Transfer Vessels (CTVs) and Service Operating Vessels (SOVs), possibly in ever-greater sea-states, with increased reliability. Transfer will be by walk to work system for the SOVs, and with CTVs it will be via either ladder or the asset operator’s specific transfer system.

Transfer height for CTVs will be improved by considering multiple systems to give gains, such as C-Clean (preventing slime and so slipping on the bars), clamping fender design and improved hull forms, and using active systems such as the Service Effect Ship (SES) cushion to increase heights to 2.5m for all transfers. 

Personnel will be accommodated offshore for fields >1hr transit time from main port, split between smaller SOVs and larger accommodation vessels. Offshore accommodation will be comfortable and of a similar standard to today’s purpose build SOVs.  Faster vessels will allow a greater mix of assets, reducing constraints to the operator.

Flexibility in the accommodation and transfer assets will allow sharing of capacity between sites; the operators will then prefer to procure services on an individual seat basis, rather than purchasing large assets to manage which may be under-utilised for a single field. Collaboration will then be assured between teams, allowing lessons to be shared more rapidly; economic benefit for the wind farms is measured in absolute terms by levelised cost of energy (LCOE). Recognising this, developers will then work together, rather than in competition with one another in the same region. Contract lengths will be sufficient for their suppliers (contractors) to do the same.

TRAINING

When CWind Training (formerly National Wind Farm Training Centres) was established in 2010, it was conceived largely due to the convenience of being able to train colleagues to a high standard in-house, at one centralised location. Two years later, CWind Training became the first UK owned and based company to gain a Global Wind Organisation accreditation in October 2012. Since then, the training courses provided to both internal and external delegates have adapted and developed to encompass new ways of working. This is in part thanks to its access to facilities such as the 18m training tower and the full environmental sea survival pool. As technology develops further, courses are likely to encompass state-of-the-art virtual reality to help prepare delegates for the environment they can expect offshore. The augmented reality approach would also lower the risks associated with taking trainees into a safety-critical environment offshore while training.

GLOBAL DRIVERS FUELLING CHANGE

It is understood across the globe that climate change is a substantial contributor to global warming. Decarbonisation strategies are necessary to maintain a 1.5 degree (preindustrial level) pathway in line with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommendations. Offshore wind is a cost-competitive green alternative to traditional fossil fuels, and the energy generator of choice for Governments.

As the world’s largest offshore wind market, the UK continues to tell a successful story through its 2019 Sector Deal, reached between the government and industry to contribute one third of the UK’s power mix, delivering 30GW of offshore wind by 2030. The UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has an even greater goal, they recommended to the government in June 2020, that the target should be to deliver at least 40GW of offshore wind by 2030. With increasing Government buy-in around the world, a greater emphasis has been placed on offshore wind by financiers as it has been identified as a critical component to ‘green recovery’ – a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This recognition should resolve permitting and licensing challenges of new projects.

Working in partnership has always been core to how CWind operates. Nathanael Allison, Managing Director of CWind, is a Board Member for RenewableUK, the UK’s leading not for profit renewable energy trade association. In addition to this, CWind is a member of the Ocean Renewable Energy Action Coalition (OREAC), a global group of leading offshore wind developers, technology providers and stakeholders. The group was launched in December 2019 in response to the UN High Level Panel for Sustainable Ocean Economy’s call for ocean-based climate action. These organisational bodies work to highlight the actions that industry, financiers and governments can take to sustainably scale-up offshore wind, and thereby meet native capacity targets that also contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

WORKING TOGETHER TO REALISE THE BENEFITS OF THE OFFSHORE WIND PHENOMENON

CWind shares the industry’s vision of ‘a world that runs entirely on green energy’ and supports the expansion of its decarbonisation strategy to reduce indirect emissions by 50% by 2030 and be net zero by 2050.

However we get there, if the last 10 years have taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected, embrace change and growth, and continue to lead the way with new ideas, initiatives and ways of working together to achieve these ambitious but attainable targets.

How do you envisage the offshore wind industry to develop over the next 10 years? Share your ideas with us at: info@cwind.global