According to a new report by Bloomberg, offshore wind providers ranging from Dong Energy A/S to RWE AG are in the process of building custom ships at an incredibly fast rate to help cut the cost of this particular power source.
Upwards of 20 of these ships will be on the market in the next several years. And some, which are actually equipped with movable legs that reach the sea floor, can cut the cost of shipping turbine parts by over $261,000 a day according to Marc Seidel of Suzlon Energy Ltd, the principle supplier of turbines to Germany’s RWE.
RWE recently spent more than $262 million on two of these new custom ships with the capability to operate in waters 148 feet deep. They are set to begin work in June and July.
The new ships called ‘jackups’ also allow companies the ability to install turbines in far deeper waters, lift heavier weights and carry more machinery out to project sites.
Thomas Karst, an industry advisor with Make Consulting LLC in Aarhus, Denmark explained that a utility could earn upwards of $13,000 operating a 6 MW turbine on a good wind day. Karst goes on to explain that, “If you can have ten turbines up a month earlier on a project, that’s $3,920,100 in your pocket from early generation.”
Last month, Marubeni Corp and Innovation Network Corp bought shipbuilder Seajacks International Ltd. for a cool $850 million. The acquisition has made it possible for Seajacks UK to up its production on these new jackups, the third of which will be available for work in May.
Should these ships save time and make the installation job as safe as advertised, the British government estimates upwards of $55 billion could be contributed to the economy by 2050.
This is all a far cry from the early 2000s when companies had to beg for ships to help transport turbines. However, high costs continue to weigh on the industry. According to Bloomberg, offshore wind costs around $232 per megawatt hour as opposed to $80 for onshore, $62 for gas-fired plants and $77 for coal. Several governments, particularly in the UK, are addressing this problem by promoting large-scale projects as a way to add jobs.
As it stands today, Europe is on track to add about 10.4 GW from 2012 to 2015, which would account for 70% of the global total.