UK: Barge with Dynamic Positioning to Revolutionise Tidal Energy Installation
Installing tidal energy devices is both costly and technically challenging, but a new Dynamic Positioning (DP) flat-top barge could be the answer that the industry has been waiting for. Adding DP capability to a versatile flat-top barge offers a real cost effective tidal energy installation solution with multiple benefits.
Successfully installing devices in locations with the best resources poses a significant trial for the tidal energy sector. So far, single turbine installations have been carried out by offshore spec DP vessels sourced from the oil and gas sector. These vessels and their DP systems are not designed for operation in the high energy commercial sites where these devices will be deployed. They also typically have day rates in excess of £100,000, significantly increasing the financial price-tag of a tidal energy installation.
A new project has been supported by the Technology Strategy Board to provide a lower cost, optimised installation vessel for tidal energy array installations.
The Technology Strategy Board, the UK’s government-backed innovation agency, awarded a grant of £1.5m to the DP Barge project consortium in November 2012. The grant is for the consortium to design, develop and commission a barge with DP capabilities optimised for high energy locations providing a lower cost alternative for tidal array installations.
The method known as ‘Dynamic Positioning’ enables a vessel to autonomously maintain its position and heading by using its own thrusters. The DP Barge project will equip a flat-top barge with a dynamic positioning system designed specifically for operation in high tidal flow.
The DP Barge project consortium is made up of 4 companies all committed to innovating technical solutions for the tidal energy sector. They are IT Power (project lead), Keynvor MorLift Ltd (marine contractor and ship owner), Reygar Ltd (DP controller developer) and A&P Falmouth (shipbuilders).
The barge will have significant deck space and heavy lift capacity to enable multiple operations to be conducted from a single platform, allowing installation of a wide variety of tidal energy devices with their associated sub-systems and drilling equipment.
A key objective of the project is to maximise the operational window of the vessel in energetic tidal sites through the use of an optimised DP control strategy and propulsion system.
The project consortium partners bring together an abundance of marine energy and maritime operations expertise, and a true indication of the level of commitment to this exciting and emerging sector. Between them they have managed several marine energy installation and design projects and are well equipped to understand the obstacles facing the sector.
The vessel will be designed to be operated by a smaller crew than generally required for a large heavy-lift vessel. The vessel’s suitability for a wide variety of tidal turbines means that developers won’t need to directly invest significant sums in the construction of a bespoke vessel, whilst offering high positional accuracy.
Press release, February 15, 2013; Image: itpower