Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Possible Opportunity For Shipbuilders: "Offshore Wind’s Next Big Problem? Not Enough Ships"

We'll see if anyone is willing to pony-up some sizable cash to get the things built.

From Bloomberg via gCaptain, March 20:

On the outskirts of Rotterdam, a bright orange ship is hoisted above the muddy Rhine with the help of six chunky triangular legs. The vessel has just been retrofit with a huge crane capable of lifting up to 1,600 tons 160 meters above deck. Once the finishing touches have been made, the Wind Osprey will take off for Germany, and return to building wind turbines at sea.  

As governments green their economies and utilities retire fossil-fuel power stations, wind installations are emerging as one of the most popular forms of alternative energy. Globally, offshore wind capacity is poised to quintuple between 2022 and the middle of the next decade, according to BloombergNEF, and to squeeze more energy out of the wind, turbines are getting bigger and bigger. That means that ships capable of installing them are in growing demand. 

And at the moment, the fleet isn’t expanding quickly enough. 

Clarksons Offshore Renewables, a shipping broker that matches vessels with project developers, estimates that there are between 15 and 20 ships outside China able to install turbines with a minimum 15-megawatt capacity, and that more will be needed in the next several years. Consultant Wood Mackenzie Ltd. says that there are about 40 ships operating outside China, though not all are used exclusively for offshore wind. To meet future demand, Woodmac anticipates about $14.8 billion will need to be invested. So far, only about a third of that has actually been committed.

Building an enormous wind turbine is a complicated task on land, never mind on the open ocean. It starts with carefully loading components onto a ship. Towers and blades can be more than 100 meters long, and the container that houses the generator, called a nacelle, is around the size of a villa. Once the ship reaches the future site of the turbine, the pieces must be removed and assembled. It takes roughly three days to install just one turbine, depending on travel time to port. 

The looming shortage of ships capable of handling such turbines, some of which are almost as tall as the Chrysler Building, comes on the back of a tumultuous 2023 for the offshore wind industry. While European investment in new offshore wind parks jumped to a record €30 billion ($32.5 billion) last year, up from €400 million the year prior, the industry also faced supply chain snarls, massive writedowns and delays to projects in the US and the UK.

Meanwhile, “everything is getting bigger,” said Wind Osprey captain Matt Christie. “All the components are getting bigger, the ships are getting bigger.”....