Recharging at wind farms

Offshore wind farms are playing an important role as Europe transitions to renewable energy. The European offshore wind market will reach an expected annual capacity of ≈14 GW by 2030, and will require an expansion of the fleet of Service Operation Vessels (SOVs) to maintain them.[1] SOVs function as workshops, spare part delivery services, and floating hotels for workers.[2,3] Current SOVs are powered by diesel fuel, diminishing the benefits of renewable wind energy.[4]

Battery or fuel cell powered SOVs that can charge while docking at the wind farm will provide a partial solution.[2,5,6] Here, the concept of “cold ironing,” in which a docked ship is plugged into an onshore power source, could be adapted to electric vessels servicing wind farms. This adaptation is forecasted to reduce fuel costs by 20%, and emissions by 30%.[1,3,7] Furthermore, wind farm owners will benefit from selling electricity to the SOVs, and energy companies would benefit from smoothing out the volatility of electricity production and storage created by wind speed variability.[8]

Ongoing challenges to offshore “cold ironing” include the cost of equipment, such as transformers and modifications to energy storage systems, and the increased risks to human safety.[7]

When will it become an accepted practice that electric service vessels will recharge or swap batteries at offshore wind farms?

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[1] DNV GL (2019), NEXUS takes action
[3] Ulstein Wind Team (2017), Why should Service Operation Vessels be the standard at offshore wind farms?
[4] Livingstone, P. (2019), Next-Generation Crew Transfer and Service Operation Vessels
[5] Haynes, J. (2019), Hybrid marine technology for wind farm service vessels
[6] LEANWIND (2017), Driving Cost Reductions in Offshore Wind
[7] Safety4Sea (2019), Cold Ironing: The role of ports in reducing shipping emissions
[8] Spector, J. (2019), Orsted Diversifies From Offshore Wind With 20MW UK Battery

By Matthew J. Spaniol