offshore wind energy
Image credit: RWE

The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) has published its first ever Global Offshore Wind Turbine Installation Vessel Database as an important resource for the industry.

Installation vessels play a critical role in expanding the market.

As offshore wind continues to accelerate growth into new markets, the industry must keep looking to the future and anticipate growth to avoid any potential bottlenecks and be able to fulfil a growing demand for offshore wind. One potential bottleneck which could slow offshore wind installation is the availability of vessels, according to GWEC.

There are 137 installed vessels worldwide, of which 82 are jack-up vessels and 55 are heavy lift vessels, that have participated in wind turbine installation work.

Of these vessels, 61% are in Europe and the remaining 39% are located in China.

In addition, 16 tailor-made jack-up vessels are under construction or in the pipeline, of which four are booked by European vessel operators, eight by Chinese companies, three by Japanese firms and one by an American operator.

A further five tailor-made offshore wind heavy lift vessels are currently under construction as of Q3 2020, of which four vessels have been ordered by European companies and one has been ordered by a joint venture company based in Taiwan.

Europe has sufficient vessel capacity at present to fulfil the region’s annual installation levels.

On the other hand, vessel availability in China may present itself as a bottleneck considering the current installation rush to connect offshore projects to the grid before the end of 2021 to receive the Feed-in-Tariff. 

Over 10GW of offshore wind capacity is under construction right now in China whilst vessels in the country can only support the installation of 6GW per annum.

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Emerging markets such as the United States, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan will be able to meet offshore wind demand using vessels from Europe.

Offshore wind turbines are expected to increase significantly in size including the weight of nacelle, tower and foundation, as well as the hub height, and vessels will need to adapt accordingly to be able to install these larger turbines to avoid future bottlenecks.

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Currently, only 9 vessels globally are able to support the installation of turbines greater than 10MW, and this will need to change quickly as there is more demand for these larger and more powerful turbines across the world.

The database is available for GWEC members.