A boat with suspension and a novel seahorse vessel could help improve access to Round 3 offshore windfarms

A boat with suspension inspired by Paris Dakar-winning rally cars that can remain stable and a 'seahorse' vessel consisting of a towering keel that minimises movements in the ocean swell are two of the six innovative concepts that will receive further funding from the Carbon Trust's Offshore wind Accelerator (OWA),  its flagship collaborative RD&D programme.  

The six designs are part of a project to solve the problem of transferring engineers and equipment safely on to wind turbines as far as 300km offshore in wave heights up to around three metres.  

The project aims to improve the economics of offshore wind by keeping turbines generating electricity in the harshest sea conditions to increase revenues by as much as £3bn for the next generation of the UK's offshore wind farms.

Through its Offshore Wind Accelerator (OWA) programme, the Carbon Trust is leading an industry collaboration of eight UK wind farm developers - E.ON, DONG Energy, Mainstream Renewable Power, RWE Innogy, ScottishPower Renewables, SSE Renewables, Statkraft and Statoil - to dramatically reduce the costs of offshore wind.

Today's offshore wind farms are typically less than 25km offshore in relatively benign sea conditions, and consist of up to 100 turbines. Maintenance is possible in boats about 90% of the time when wave heights are up to about 1.5m. The new 'round three' offshore wind projects will be as far as 300km offshore in rougher sea conditions, and may consist of as many as 2,500 turbines. At these sites, today's access systems would only allow transfers about 210 days a year. The aim of the access project is to find and commercialise concepts to make transfers possible for a minimum of 300 days a year.

Phil de Villiers, Head of Offshore Wind at the Carbon Trust, said:

"Bringing down the cost of offshore wind is an absolute priority for the industry.  By increasing the accessibility of Round 3 turbines by up to a third these six designs could play an important role in improving the economics of offshore wind and helping to keep our engineers safe far out to sea."

The overall aim of the access project is to increase turbine availability by 4% through the development of these new technologies. This in turn could cut turbine down-time, saving £3bn of lost generating revenue over the lifetime of Round 3 wind farms, and help to reduce the levelised cost of offshore wind. This improvement in availability would also save an extra 1.3 Mt CO2 per year.

The global market opportunity for these wind turbine access solutions is estimated to be worth over £2bn by 2020 and according to Carbon Trust research, the UK market alone could account for up to fifty per cent of that.The six  companies will receive total combined financial support of £650,000, as well as technical support from the eight developers in the Offshore Wind Accelerator. The six concepts have received financial and technical support from OWA since summer 2011; this has allowed concept design and tank testing to be completed, and the next stage of funding will help to de-risk the concepts so that they are ready to be taken up by vessel owners and operators - as has happened earlier this year with Fjellstrand.

The companies selected to receive further funding are as follows:

  • Transfer systems - To transfer personnel and equipment from vessel to turbine, potentially with motion-compensation
    • Autobrow, Otso and Ad Hoc Marine Designs
    • TAS2, BMT Nigel Gee / Houlder
  • Vessels - Vessels for transporting personnel and equipment from permanent bases or mother ships to turbines, incorporating a transfer system
    • Nauti-Craft, Nauti-Craft
    • TranSPAR, ExtremeOcean Innovation
    • Wavecraft Surface Effect Ship, Umoe Mandal
  • Launch and recovery systems - Systems fitted to the permanent bases or mother ships for launching and recovering daughter craft from the sea.
    • Boat Launch and Recovery System (LARS), Divex


For further information please contact the Carbon Trust press office on 020 7170 7050 or email press@carbontrust.com.

About the Carbon Trust

The Carbon Trust is an independent company with a mission to accelerate the move to a sustainable, low-carbon economy. The Carbon Trust:

  • advises businesses, governments and the public sector on opportunities in a sustainable, low-carbon world;
  • measures and certifies the environmental footprint of organisations, products and services;
  • helps develop and deploy low-carbon technologies and solutions, from energy efficiency to renewable power


More information on the six designs

Transfer systems

To transfer personnel and equipment from vessel to turbine, potentially with motion-compensation

Otso and Ad Hoc Marine Designs (Autobrow personnel transfer system)http://www.autobrow.com

The Autobrow is an elegant and simple modular transfer system, that is light weight and flexible and consequently can be fitted to the vast majority of service vessels. The Autobrow works by having a gangway, or brow, automatically controlled up and down to compensate for the heave and pitch of the vessel.  The tower end of the brow automatically extends to ensure firm contact at all times.  The low cost system provides a significant improvement in transfer safety and operating window.  The Autobrow is available from Otso Ltd and was designed by Ad Hoc Marine Designs Ltd.

BMT Nigel Gee / Houlder (TAS2 personnel transfer system)

The TAS2 is a lightweight gangway for the transfer of personnel to offshore wind turbines from small service vessels using the 'push up' method as opposed to the current step across method currently used. It is designed to compensate for the motion of the vessel and uses damped, swivelling rollers on the vessel's bow to enable controlled positive contact with the boat landing. Combined together TAS2 allows the transfer of personnel in higher sea-states as well as reducing operational risk.


Vessels for transporting personnel and equipment from permanent bases or mother ships to turbines, incorporating a transfer system

Nauti-Craft, Nauti-Craft - http://www.nauti-craft.com/

Nauti-craft is developing a marine suspension system which separates the vessels hull's from the deck and superstructure via a 'passive reactive' hydraulic suspension system. It is designed so that the hulls react and conform to the ocean surface, increasing stability to the deck and superstructure in higher sea-states and allowing increased operational time.

ExtremeOcean (TranSPAR craft) http://www.extremeocean.ca/

ExtremeOcean is developing an integrated offshore wind turbine transfer system capable of operating for longer periods, whilst allowing safe transfer of personnel to and from the turbine. The TranSPAR craft incorporates a small water plane area minimizing the crafts response to wave excitation sources allowing the craft to connect to offshore wind turbines safely.

Umoe Mandal (Wavecraft Surface Effect Ship (SES)) - http://www.um.no/

This design has been adapted from vessels used by the Royal Norwegian Navy.

Umoe Mandal's Wavecraft uses an air cushion to lift 80% of the vessel, with the remaining 20% being lifted by buoyancy. This means only some small parts of the vessel's hull are in the water therefore reducing wave induced motions compared to other vessel types and allows for a larger operational window in higher sea-states. The SES system also reduces friction allowing for higher speeds and reduced fuel consumption compared to high speed catamaran.

Launch and recovery systems

Systems fitted to the permanent bases or mother ships for launching and recovering daughter craft from the sea.

DIVEX (Boat Launch and Recovery System (LARS))http://www.divexglobal.com/

DIVEX is using the established ramp recovery method for high sea-states, but in a way so that it can be fitted on to an OSV mothership and used in higher sea-states. Their Boat LARS incorporates an inclinable cradle that uses a fast action constant tension winch which automatically synchronises the cradle/boat motion with the swell to avoid slap and snatch during launching and recovery. It also uses an automatic bow latch that holds the boat securely in place during launch and recovery.

More about the OWA

The Offshore Wind Accelerator (OWA) is Carbon Trust's flagship collaborative RD&D programme. Set up in 2008, the OWA is a joint industry project, involving eight offshore wind developers with 60% (30GW) of the UK's licensed capacity, that aims to reduce the cost of offshore wind by 10% by 2015. Cost reduction is achieved through innovation. Technology challenges are identified and prioritised by the OWA members based on the likely savings and the potential for the OWA to influence the outcomes. Projects are carried out to address these challenges, often using international competitions to inspire innovation and identify the best new ideas. The most promising concepts are developed, de-risked and commercialised as the OWA works closely with the supply chain throughout the process.

The OWA model brings together Carbon Trust's expertise in delivering innovation and convening industry consortiums with the industrial partners' technical knowledge and resources. The OWA is two-thirds funded by industry and one-third funded by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and Devolved Administrations.