Offshore Wind: Floating Wind is the Future
January 31, 2023
$3 billion forecast to be invested in new anchor handlers to meet floating wind demand.
Floating wind is an emerging technology. Currently being tested in small scale demonstration and pilot projects, global floating wind commissioned capacity at the end of 2022 was less than 200 MW. By 2030, close to 11 GW of commercial scale wind farms are planned to be commissioned in Europe and the Asia Pacific Region. 2030-2035 will see a period a high commissioning activity as the USA joins established European and Asia Pacific markets. Floating installed capacity is forecast to reach 63 GW by 2035, which translates to the installation of close to 4,000 floating turbines, over 16,000 anchors and close to 17,000 mooring lines.
Whereas floating wind projects will leverage experiences from the bottom-fixed industry, there will also be many differences, particularly in how floating turbines are constructed and installed, as shown in the graphic below. The differences drive demand for a different type of vessel than seen for bottom-fixed offshore wind projects.
For floating wind projects, we will see the largest anchor handlers and light subsea construction vessels deployed to pre-install mooring systems designed to maintain the position of the floating wind turbines, to tow the structures from port and to hook-up the floating turbines to pre-existing moorings. For example, our analysis identifies the optimal size of AHTS for mooring pre-lay as having a bollard pull of at least 250 tonnes and a clear back deck of over 800 square meters. The following chart identifies only 63 current optimal AHTSs with the ideal bollard pull and clear deck space combination for mooring pre-lay. The number of vessels of 15 years age or younger falls to only 12 by 2030, when commercial floating wind is forecast to take off at scale.
The large anchor handling segment has seen limited recent new building activity due to poor market conditions in the core oil and gas sector, with only five large anchor handlers delivered in the last five years. Oil and gas activity is currently picking up, reducing available supply. The challenge is accentuated by an aging fleet, much of which becomes technically uncompetitive by 2030. As a result, our forecast identifies a large anchor handler shortage of around 30 vessels after 2030.
Newbuilding prices for large anchor handlers were around $80-85 million in 2015/16, when large anchor handlers were last contracted. Since then, there has been limited activity to guide price estimates. However, a capital cost estimate of at least $100 million per vessel seems reasonable, meaning that potentially $3 billion will be invested in new built optimal anchor handlers to meet floating wind demand.
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