The development of floating offshore wind will be held up by the limitations of current port infrastructure, a recent research has revealed.
As part of the Floating Wind Joint Industry Report, published on behalf of the Carbon Trust, LOC Renewables, a marine and engineering consultancy, together with WavEC and Cathie Associates, examined the logistical challenges relating to floating offshore wind, noting that existing port infrastructure is largely insufficient.
Of 96 European ports analysed, only a few in Scotland, Norway and Spain are capable of accommodating all the quay-side manufacturing and assembly required for building and operating large-scale floating wind farms, according to the report.
In order to accommodate the quay-side construction of a large-scale floating wind farm, a port must meet various criteria. For a start, it will require a suitably large onshore area for component set-down and production lines. An area for wet storage of assembled units will also be needed and the port should be close to other operation-capable ports.
Without a plan to develop a network of appropriate ports, the lack of suitable infrastructure for commercial floating offshore wind farms will lead projects to suffer from increased costs and longer operational lead times, LOC said. If an assembly port is further from the wind farm site, for example, long and costly tow operations will be necessary.
Vessels and Equipment
In terms of vessels and equipment, the report further concluded that current installation and support vessels used for fixed foundation wind farms are likely to prove insufficient, and new ones will need to be developed to meet the demands of floating offshore projects. In particular, if construction is to be carried out offshore, the industry will need to invest in new vessels with greater lifting capacity.
In the fixed offshore industry, specialised vessels lead to more cost-effective operation and maintenance. Comparable developments could help the floating wind industry overcome infrastructure challenges: limited port space is less of an issue if better towing systems are developed that are capable of bringing over components from nearby port assembly sites.
“By highlighting the infrastructure challenges facing floating wind we are enabling them to be tackled head-on,” said Dr RV Ahilan, joint CEO of LOC Group.
“As the industry develops the necessary technologies to make floating offshore wind commercially viable, there is an urgent need for investment in port infrastructure to avoid delays in the deployment of large-scale floating offshore wind farms.”